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Jeb Bush wades into women's health funding spat

05 august 2015, 11:07

Republican 2016 presidential hopeful Jeb Bush stepped into a heated debate Tuesday about funding for women's health and abortion, offering a critique that earned a swift rebuke by Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, AFP reports.

Controversy has simmered in recent weeks following the release of undercover videos that showed officials from women's health provider Planned Parenthood cavalierly discussing the use of fetal tissue for research.

The footage appalled conservatives and prompted renewed calls to end all federal funding for the organization, which last year received about 40 percent of its $1.3 billion funding -- more than $500 million -- from taxpayer money.

Bush told the Southern Baptist Forum during an onstage interview that the next president should defund Planned Parenthood, but then he implied that the money might be better used for other purposes.

"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," Bush said.

Clinton, the Democratic frontrunner, quickly tweeted a retort: "@JebBush: You are absolutely, unequivocally wrong."

Bush issued a statement saying "I misspoke, as there are countless community health centers, rural clinics, and other women's health organizations that need to be fully funded."

"I was referring to the hard-to-fathom $500 million in federal funding that goes to Planned Parenthood -- an organization that was callously participating in the unthinkable practice of selling fetal organs."

Planned Parenthood is the largest US abortion provider, but that is a small percentage of the group's work. Millions of women visit the organization for family planning, HIV testing and prevention, and cancer screenings.

The back-and-forth could fuel debate in the 2016 election cycle that Republicans are waging a war on women, something Clinton directly accused her rivals of in a two-minute video on Monday.

The spat comes a day after Senate Democrats blocked a Republican bill that would bar any federal funding to Planned Parenthood and redistribute such money to community health care centers that provide women's health care.

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