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It’s becoming increasingly clear that the likely GOP nominees for president are competing in a race to the bottom on women’s health and will say anything to appeal to an extreme faction of the Republican Party. What is of greater concern is that they all took center stage Saturday at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Spring Kick-Off and bragged about their extreme records and agendas on women’s health.

Here are some examples from Florida’s former governor Jeb Bush, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, and Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal.

  • "We have got to defund Planned Parenthood, by the way, and Gov. Bush supports those efforts,"  said Jordan Sekulow, a senior adviser on Jeb Bush’s campaign.
  • “In our first budget, we defunded Planned Parenthood in the state of Wisconsin,” bragged Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker.
  • Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal repeated the medically inaccurate claim that the birth control benefit forces bosses to pay for abortion inducing drugs, despite medical evidence to the contrary.

Statement from Cecile Richards, President, Planned Parenthood Action Fund:

“If one thing became clear from their speeches at the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition Spring Kick-Off, it’s that the GOP presidential contenders are on the wrong side of public opinion — the wrong side of public health — and the wrong side of history.

“At Planned Parenthood Action Fund, we’ve seen what happens when people play politics with women’s access to health care. But we’ve also seen the progress that’s possible when doors are open to women — when policies embrace science — embrace medicine — embrace the direction this country is going and expand access to health care instead of standing in the way.

“We know that many Republicans stand with Planned Parenthood, and they should encourage Republican candidates for president to support women’s health.”

Just look to the states to see what these GOP contenders envision for the future.

  • Jeb Bush (FL): Jeb Bush wants to ban abortion and in 2003 declared that he was "probably the most pro-life governor in modern times."  As governor, Bush signed a law to create "Choose Life" license plates in Florida, the proceeds from which flow to anti-abortion advocacy organizations; and he aggressively intervened in two high-profile cases to prevent a developmentally disabled rape victim and a 13-year-old girl from being able to access safe, legal abortion. As governor, Bush advocated for and signed restrictions targeting abortion providers with provisions like building requirements that have nothing to do with health care and are actually an attempt to limit access to abortion. The Tampa Bay Times wrote “they are rules clearly written by bureaucrats, not health professionals” in an editorial about the bill. Bush said that he signed the bill “gladly, with pride and conviction," because he was motivated to “create a culture of life in our state.” He also funneled millions of taxpayer dollars into abstinence-only programs, cutting funds for crucial family planning programs that health centers like Planned Parenthood provide. As governor, Bush showed how far he was willing to go to interfere with personal medical decisions when he intervened in what has been called one of the “most contentious, drawn-out conflicts in the history of America’s culture wars,” and attempted to take custody of Terri Schiavo and overrule her husband’s decision to remove her feeding tube, 15 years after cardiac arrest had left her in a vegetative state.
  • Scott Walker (WI): What’s happened in Wisconsin could happen in all 50 states if Scott Walker is elected president.  Scott Walker has said he wants to ban abortion and has already passed four laws that threaten a woman’s ability to make her own health care decisions about her pregnancy, including laws that threaten doctors with felony charges for providing abortion, require physicians to have admitting privileges at a local hospital, and block women from getting private insurance coverage for abortion. Not only has Scott Walker made Wisconsin one of the most difficult states to access safe and legal abortion, he also ended Planned Parenthood’s 16-year contract with the state to provide breast and cervical cancer screenings under the state’s well-woman program and forced the closure of five rural Planned Parenthood health centers, resulting in the disruption and loss of over 18,800 health care services for approximately 3,100 patients, including lifesaving cancer screenings, breast exams, birth control, annual exams, pregnancy tests, STD testing and treatment, HIV screening, and referrals to a network of community resources.
  • Bobby Jindal (LA): Bobby Jindal has said he’s “proud” of his state’s “pro-life” label and under his administration, Louisiana has been named the most "pro-life state" five years in a row. In a state where there is already vast unmet need for women’s health care, Governor Jindal has targeted abortion access while also threatening to cut millions from health care funding.  As a result, six in 10 pregnancies in Louisiana are unintended. Louisiana also ranks in the top three states with the highest rates of chlamydia, gonorrhea and syphilis and in the top 10 of people living with HIV infection among adults and adolescents. In 2010, 53,000 Louisiana residents had an unintended pregnancy and in 2012, 322,950 women in Louisiana were in need of publicly supported contraceptive services and supplies. In the absence of the publicly supported family planning services including affordable birth control provided at safety-net health centers like Planned Parenthood, the rates of unintended pregnancy, unplanned birth and abortion would be 21 percent higher in Louisiana, and the teen pregnancy rate would be 31 percent higher.

What’s clear is Americans don’t want this.

  • Nearly 80 percent of the American public wants to ensure that abortion remains safe and legal; and three in 10 women have had a safe, legal abortion at some point in their lifetimes. By double digits, voters in South Dakota have twice rejected ballot initiatives that would have banned abortion. So-called personhood ballot initiatives were rejected in November by large majorities in both Colorado and in North Dakota, where voters also defeated one of the bills’ key sponsors.
  • Sixty-eight percent of women voters say that politicians who support the Hobby Lobby decision, like many of the GOP hopefuls, are out of touch with them and their everyday lives. According to a report from the National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, two-thirds of young Republicans say that “every adult woman should have access to affordable, effective birth control because it gives people a chance to build families on their own terms. Sixty-five percent of young Republicans who use birth control support the requirement that insurance companies cover contraception without additional out-of-pocket costs for consumers; 62 percent support providing more educational programs and campaigns for young adults about all methods of birth control.
  • February 2012 National Journal poll showed that 69 percent of voters oppose Congress cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood, including 71 percent of women, 70 percent of independents, and 79 percent of adults under 30.  According to a February 2012 Quinnipiac poll, a solid 78 percent of voters opposed cutting federal funding for Planned Parenthood once it was explained that the money was used only for non-abortion health issues such as breast cancer screenings.

If you have any questions, please contact the Planned Parenthood Action Fund media line at [email protected].

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