Donald Trump’s misogynist rhetoric is nothing compared with the sinister record of the former governor, whose actions speak even louder than his "misspoken" words.
While expressing his support for Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, Republican Presidential candidate Jeb Bush made an offhand and quite revelatory comment about women’s rights:
You could take dollar for dollar—although I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars—for women’s health issues, but if you took dollar for dollar, there are many extraordinarily fine community health organizations that exist to provide quality care for women on a wide variety of health issues. But abortion should not be funded by the government.
First of all, abortion isn’t funded by the federal government. The Hyde Amendment specifically bans the use of federal funds for abortion care. But that’s not even the point. Apparently, Jeb Bush feels that half a billion dollars is too much to spend on women’s health care. There are nearly 160 million women living in America, and $500 million equals roughly $3 a year for each of them. According to Jeb Bush, who now claims he “misspoke,” women don’t even deserve the meager amount of funding they get for their health care.
Women make up more than half of the American population (and electorate), yet Jeb Bush doesn’t think that their health-care needs matter.
He’s not the only one.
In fact, a marked and increasingly virulent disdain for women’s health care is not only a prerequisite for any campaigning Republican, but a badge of honor. Nearly every Republican presidential nominee (all but one are men, by the way) has fumbled over himself to denounce Planned Parenthood and one-up each other in how much they hate abortions and the women who have them.
Sexism has already played a key role in the Republican presidential campaign, as both the mainstream and conservative media outlets continue to denounce Donald Trump for his offensive comments about Fox News host Megyn Kelly. As they should be. Donald Trump’s comments were disgusting and clearly misogynistic, and rhetoric matters. The words our politicians use reflect our cultural norms and set a political precedent for whose lives and rights matter.
Yet while this is happening, no one is really talking about Jeb Bush’s politically revelatory comment, the eradication of safe abortion clinics on Ohio Governor John Kasich’s watch, or Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker essentially saying he doesn’t care if a woman dies rather than obtain a safe abortion. That’s deliberate. Donald Trump is an easy target, the low-hanging fruit in combating sexism. The conservative media and the Republican establishment, longing to find a way to “dump Trump,” are finally pouncing. Conservative pundit Erick Erickson, who termed Texas State senator Wendy Davis “abortion Barbie,” has banned Donald Trump from his RedState.com event, claiming he went too far.
But as Jessica Valenti noted over at The Guardian, while Donald Trump may be saying sexist things, the other Republican candidates are actually doing them. Jeb Bush, considered by many to be the moderate candidate among the Republican presidential nominees, is anything but when it comes to women’s rights.
When he said that he doesn’t feel that we should be spending $500 million a year on women’s health care, Jeb Bush wasn’t making the same kind of inflammatory sexist comments that Donald Trump made about Megyn Kelly or Rosie O’Donnell. But what Bush said is actually more relevant and revealing, and worthier of our attention and derision.
After all, it is Jeb Bush who has a long history of attacking women’s reproductive rights. As governor of Florida, he signed a law that created “Choose Life” license plates to fund Crisis Pregnancy Centers, or CPCs. CPCs are fake clinics set up by abortion opponents that provide false information and employ scare tactics to frighten women out of accessing a safe and legal abortion.
But that’s far from it. In an incomprehensibly vile move, Jeb Bush moved in 2003 to appoint a guardian ad litem, or courtroom representative, to the fetus of a developmentally disabled rape victim. He claimed that it was an “entirely appropriate” response to “represent the unborn child’s best interests in all decisions.” He gave no such concern to the pregnant rape victim’s interests.
Then there was the time he declined to veto the disturbingly sexist and egregiously invasive “Scarlet Letter” law, which required single women who wanted to place their child for adoption to publish their sexual histories in a newspaper. Oh, and the law stipulated that women were required to pay for their own sexual histories to be published. The law contained no exceptions for rape victims or minors, meaning that if a 16-year-old rape victim chose to pursue adoption rather than abortion, she would have to publish her sexual history in a newspaper, too.
And who could forget the horrific case of Terri Schiavo? As governor, Jeb Bush paved the way for current showdowns, like the case of Marlise Muñoz in Texas, in which the state can attempt to keep a brain-dead pregnant woman on life support, despite her or her family’s wishes. Terri Schiavo was the brain-dead woman who survived for years on life support, against her wishes, and became the epicenter of a national firestorm when her husband, Michael, sought to remove her feeding tube. In 2003, a court granted him the right, but that didn’t stop Jeb Bush from intervening. He then pushed a bill, deceptively named “Terri’s Law,” through the Florida state legislature that gave him the ability to override the court’s ruling. He immediately ordered the feeding tube be reinserted. That law was subsequently struck down by the Florida Supreme Court a year later.
When we contextualize his record with his comment that we shouldn’t be spending half a billion dollars on women’s health, it becomes clear that Jeb Bush didn’t misspeak at all; this is what he really thinks. He wants to take the pittance we currently spend on women’s health care and move it to “community health organizations” that, based on his record, can only mean fake clinics that lie to women and dissuade them from accessing safe abortion care.
Donald Trump will most likely not be the Republican presidential nominee, but Jeb Bush very likely could be. A (third) Bush presidency would spell disaster for American women and their basic health-care needs. By all means, let’s criticize Donald Trump’s disgusting misogyny, but let’s not forget the real threat: those, like Jeb Bush, who have the financial and institutional backing to legislate away women’s fundamental rights.
It’s not just about the stories. Journalism is also about who is telling them.
Become a member at DAME today to help us support our independent, fearless reporting so we can continue to shine a light on the stories that need to be told, from perspectives that aren’t heard enough. Every dollar we receive from readers goes directly into funding our journalism. Become a supporter today.
AN INDEPENDENT FREE PRESS HAS
NEVER BEEN MORE IMPORTANT.
Your financial support helps us continue to cover the critical policies, politics and social changes impacting women and their allies.