Jeb's abortion nightmare: How he funneled tax dollars to quack anti-choicers & gutted real health care

Bush spent state dollars on deceptive crisis pregnancy centers and called them a "godsend." They are anything but

Published April 14, 2015 3:11PM (EDT)

  (AP/David Goldman)
(AP/David Goldman)

Crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) around the country have been exposed many times over for distributing medically inaccurate information, misleading women about the full range of their reproductive health options and claiming that abortion makes people go insane. Jeb Bush is proud to say that the state of Florida helped pay for these deceptions.

“We’re the only state, I believe, to have funded with state monies crisis pregnancy centers to provide counselors so that these not-for-profits… could act on their mission,” Bush said Monday during an interview with Focus on the Family. “It was a godsend for these crisis pregnancy centers and a lot of babies’ lives were saved.”

Bush is wrong on two counts. Florida is far from the only state to funnel public dollars into anti-choice alternative-to-abortion services, and the money diverted to fund CPCs is far from a “godsend,” particularly for the women who wind up at these centers in need of actual health care.

According to data from NARAL Pro-Choice America, 11 states currently fund CPCs directly, while nearly two dozen states have policies to support them, including referrals for mandatory counseling and the sale of “Choose Life” license plates. (The Guttmacher Institute found that 28 states sell these license plates, and 15 of them funnel the proceeds directly to CPCs.)

Florida’s support for CPCs isn’t limited to Bush’s rousing endorsement of their mission: In 1999, then-Gov. Bush signed a law making Florida the first state to fund anti-choice initiatives through the sale of "Choose Life" license plates. Three years ago, Gov. Rick Scott signed a measure that allocated $2 million in funding for alternative-to-abortion services, including CPCs, at the same time he vetoed $1.5 million in funding for rape crisis centers. A measure currently advancing in the state would impose a 24-hour waiting period on abortion and require physicians to provide patients with a list of crisis pregnancy centers.

Texas currently has the largest budget line item for alternative-to-abortion services, allocating $5 million in funding over two years, and a Republican state representative recently proposed doubling that amount. And that money -- in Texas, Florida and elsewhere in the country -- is paying for misleading and non-medical anti-choice counseling advertised as legitimate medical care.

A Vice News investigation into a Dallas CPC exposed that center’s strategy of telling women who inquired about the cost of an abortion that they didn’t discuss pricing on the phone as a way to get women through the door. Once there, women were given ultrasounds that misstated how far along they were in their pregnancies and told that the center does not perform abortions or provide referrals. When a woman involved in the investigation confronted them about it, the CPC staffer told her plainly, “I’m sorry if you were duped, but we have to fight for each other. That’s what God wanted us to do.” By all appearances, this is the norm, not the exception, at CPCs around the country.

Bush boasted about his support for CPCs in response to a question about his commitment to, in his words, protecting babies. It’s a hard claim to square with the consequences of his Medicaid overhaul, which established a semi-privatized health care system that left almost one-third of pregnant women in Florida without care in their first trimester and less than two-thirds of children with the ability to get their required immunizations, as first reported by Bloomberg News.

A judge also found that Florida’s private Medicaid plans did not “provide care with equal access” and failed to meet federal requirements. This plan is what Bush has said he would like to see implemented as a replacement to the Affordable Care Act.

Bush also discussed his handling of the Terri Shiavo case during the interview with Focus on the Family president Jim Daly, recalling the two years he spent fighting to keep Shiavo, a woman in a persistent vegetative state, on mechanical support against her husband’s wishes. Bush went so far as to push the state Legislature to pass a law giving him authority to reinsert Shiavo’s feeding tube after it was removed, and would go on to draw out a series of appeals over two years before ultimately losing in court.

Michael Shiavo, Terri’s husband, has said that Bush's big government intervention into his private grief put him “through hell,” but Bush continues to refer to the ordeal as a signature achievement of his tenure. All while promoting himself as a small government conservative.

Despite his record, Bush is still branded a moderate, with some in his party even questioning if he is “too liberal” to win the nomination. This is, it seems, what the center looks like in a party that has swung so far to the right that anything short of fetal personhood and the full dismantling of a health care law that extended coverage to 11 million people gets you branded a leftist. The countdown to 2016 has only started, but with Bush standing in as the "establishment candidate," it's clear that it's going to be a very long, and very ugly, 18 months.

By Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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