Jeb Bush Defunded Planned Parenthood in Florida. Now It Ranks Terribly for Women's Health

Source: AP
Source: AP

On Tuesday at the Southern Baptist Forum, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush declared — as is en vogue among Republicans right now — that Planned Parenthood should lose its federal government funding, and that he would pull the plug if elected president. Before wondering out loud whether "we need a half a billion dollars for women's health issues," Bush also trumpeted that he defunded Planned Parenthood during his governorship.

"Look, I have the benefit of having been governor, and we did defund Planned Parenthood when I was governor," he said to applause. "The argument against this is, well women's health issues, 'you're attacking, it's a war on women, and you're attacking women's health issues.'"

Here's what happened: As it turns out, Bush did withdraw funding for the organization in 2001. Two years later, he declared himself the "most pro-life governor of modern times," according to the Associated Press

As governor, Bush cut $302,843 for family planning services for poor women through Planned Parenthood, the St. Petersburg Times reported in 2001.  

At the time, Barbara A. Zdravecky, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of Southwest and Central Florida told the St. Petersburg Times, "Many of our patients have no health insurance nor are eligible for Medicaid. They absolutely depend on clinics like ours."

The aftermath: In a 2014 evaluation of dozens of health statistics, the Center for Reproductive Rights reports that Florida is tied with Oklahoma and Arkansas for the worst state for women's well-being in the country.

Now, 25% of women in Florida are uninsured, a rate that comes second to Texas, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. More than 20% of women in Florida report being in fair or poor health, which ranks Florida the 13th highest among all states and territories, according to Kaiser. Meanwhile, 20% of Floridian women have no access to a personal doctor or health care provider. This is three percentage points higher than the national average. Florida also ranks 46th in the percentage of women (80.2%) ages 21 to 46 who have had a pap smear in the last three years. 

This problem might not go away. On Tuesday, Bush said, "If you look dollar for dollar, there are many extraordinary, fine organizations, community health organizations, that exist to provide quality care for women on wide variety of health issues."

In Florida, however, such allocation might not be possible. A 2014 survey by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists shows that 23 of Florida's 67 counties don't have ob-gyns at all. The state has 1,829 ob-gyns serving more than 8 million women statewide. In vast areas of Florida, women have to travel at least an hour to the nearest reproductive health center, according to the ACOG. In fact, while Florida's female population is expected to increase by almost 50% by 2030, the state is suffering from a trickle of new ob-gyns: The anticipated influx of ob-gyn physicians will be 18% less than the recommended amount by 2030. 

Source: Mic/Flickr/

There are currently 23 Planned Parenthood clinics in Florida. Laura Goodhue, the vice president of communications for Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida, told Mic on Wednesday. The organization currently "provides preventative health care for 80,000 women, men and young people each year. We play an important role in providing access to well woman exams, cervical cancer screenings, STD screening and treatment and contraception. In fact, 1 in 5 women have relied on Planned Parenthood for their care at some time in their life."

As Bush ducks jabs — most notably from fellow presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton, who said on Twitter that he was "absolutely, unequivocally wrong" — he'll have to reconcile that even by making Planned Parenthood a political point of contention, he still isn't as popular as the women's health provider: 

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Michelle Garcia

Michelle Garcia is the identities editor for Mic.com, and the former managing editor of Advocate.com.

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