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Jeb Bush targets Hillary Clinton’s comments on women’s rights and religious freedom

Former Florida governor Jeb Bush delivers a speech during the annual meeting of the Ohio Chamber of Commerce in Columbus, on April 14. (Jonathan Quilter/Columbus Dispatch via AP)

Religious freedom was a big topic of discussion Saturday night at an Iowa church. Several Republicans running for president attended the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition -- but Jeb Bush wasn't among them.

He's in Miami Beach this weekend meeting with top donors to his super PAC. But before the meetings began on Sunday, the former Florida governor sent messages to his supporter network attacking Hillary Rodham Clinton for comments she made recently about women's rights.

In remarks Thursday focused on the challenges facing women abroad and in the United States, Clinton had said that too many women in Africa and elsewhere still face sexual and domestic violence, too few legal protections and too little access to health care.

“Yes, we have cut the maternal mortality rate in half, but far too women are still denied critical access to reproductive health care and safe childbirth,” Clinton told the Women in the World conference in New York.

“All the laws we passed don’t count for much if they are not enforced,” Clinton continued. “Rights have to exist in practice, not just on paper. Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will, and deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.”

Bush seized on those comments in his Sunday e-mail to supporters.

"This week Hillary Clinton said that people's deep-seated religious beliefs need to be changed in order to advance her own personal political agenda. Wow," he wrote. "America was founded on religious freedom, and that freedom is woven into the Bill of Rights as the first guarantee. And strengthening families is an important element to helping people rise up. This shouldn't be a partisan political issue, but unfortunately for Hillary Clinton it sounds like it is."

He amplified his concerns via Twitter:

Although other portions of Clinton’s speech were partisan and aimed squarely at Republicans, the remark about religious beliefs appeared to be primarily directed at political and social leaders abroad.

Women’s access to contraception and abortion are limited by many factors in traditional, conservative societies for many reasons, including patriarchal traditions, poverty and lack of education and medical services.

“I believe the advancement and the full participation of women and girls in every aspect of their societies is the great unfinished business of the 21st century,” Clinton added in her Thursday remarks. “And not just in far-away countries but right here in the United States.”

Bush is hosting meetings with top donors to his Right to Rise PAC on Sunday evening and Monday at a swanky Miami Beach hotel that opened last month. Approximately 350 donors will be attending the meeting, which kept Bush from attending the Faith and Freedom Coalition gathering and the Republican Jewish Coalition meetings in Las Vegas.

Bush sent surrogates to both meetings. His son, Jeb Bush Jr., spoke on his behalf in Las Vegas. His brother also addressed the Vegas crowd and said he'd be lying low if his brother runs for president in 2016.