"You could take dollar for dollar -- although I'm not sure we need a half a billion dollars for women's health issues -- but if you took dollar for dollar, there are many extraordinarily fine organizations, community health organizations, that exist, federally-sponsored community health organizations, to provide quality care for women on a wide variety of health issues," he said. "But abortion should not be funded by the government."
It took the campaign of Democratic front-runner Hillary Rodham Clinton less than an hour to respond to Bush:
An aide to Democratic underdog Martin O'Malley also took issue with Bush's remark:
So did the political team of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.
And insurgent candidate Bernie sanders:
Bush's defense Thursday afternoon: he may have offered his aside about the size of the figure amid a reference to how other groups could be funded. But he wasn't referring to the funding of those other groups.
The campaign rushed out a statement -- then sent a second version that added the words "I misspoke":
“With regards to women’s health funding broadly, I misspoke, as there are countless community health centers, rural clinics, and other women’s health organizations that need to be fully funded. They provide critical services to all, but particularly low-income women who don’t have the access they need.“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. Democrats and Republicans agree we absolutely must defund them and redirect those funds to other women’s health organizations.”
The release from the Bush campaign also included a statement from Dr. Rhonda Meadows, who served as the secretary of Florida's health care agency during Bush's time as governor, defending his record on women's issues.
Could Bush have made his same point without his aside? Yes. The risk of adding it is contained in his own explanation: Democrats have been eager to revive arguments they have made in past elections that Republicans are trying to wage a "war on women." His statement comes at a time when Republicans felt they had seized the high ground on the debate over abortion and women's issues, following the release of videos that drew attention to the practice of harvesting tissue from aborted fetuses. By directly questioning what level of funding ought to be directed toward women's health issues, Bush, at least for the moment, shifted his position in the Planned Parenthood debate from offensive to defensive.
Update, 6:39 p.m. ET: Bush pushed back.