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Jeb Bush’s “13,000 Women’s Health Clinics” Claim Is Suspect. Here’s Why.

The number appears to come from two conservative organizations—but the data behind those numbers are questionable.

Jeb Bush’s “13,000 Women’s Health Clinics” Claim Is Suspect. Here’s Why.
[Photo: Flickr user Michael Vadon]

In one of the many face-offs that took place during last night’s GOP debate, Jeb Bush found himself playing defense against Donald Trump on the issue of women’s health.

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The spat between the two candidates started in August, when Bush made some unfortunate remarks about funding women’s health services. Specifically, he said, “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.” Trump quickly capitalized on the gaffe, saying it would haunt him the same way that Mitt Romney’s 47% comment dogged him on the campaign trail.

Bush attempted to clarify his earlier statements last night, claiming that he wouldn’t defund women’s health services altogether—he’d just remove funding for Planned Parenthood and reallocate it towards local health clinics.

“There are 13,000 community-based organizations that provide health services to women, 13,000 in this country,” Bush said. “I don’t believe that Planned Parenthood should get a penny from the federal government. Those organizations should get funding, just as I increased funding when I was governor of the state.”

That “13,000” figure appears to come from a map that two pro-life organizations, Alliance Defending Freedom and the Charlotte Lozier Institute, released last month, which showed that there are 13,540 clinics “providing comprehensive health care for women” in the country, compared to 665 Planned Parenthood locations.

At least some of the map’s data appear to come from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, which is part of the Department of Health and Human Services. The data include long lists of health clinics in each state that supposedly offer women’s health services to at least the same degree as Planned Parenthood.

But the data don’t break down what services, exactly, these clinics offer. And while most have vague enough names, like “Family Health Center” or “Medical Clinic,” at least one—Trinity Community Dental Clinic in Weaverville, California—sounds like it might not offer the kind of women’s health services that Planned Parenthood clients are looking for.

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This wouldn’t be the first time that pro-lifers included specialists on a list of Planned Parenthood alternatives: just this month, a federal judge in Louisiana questioned why dermatologists, audiologoists, and dentists were on such a list.

It’s not clear what Alliance Defending Freedom and Charlotte Lozier Institute used to determine whether a clinic is equipped to offer certain women’s health services—or even what it defines as women’s health services. But if the Louisiana case is any indicator, voters shouldn’t take Bush’s 13,000 claim at face value.

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About the author

Kim Lightbody is an editorial assistant at Fast Company, where she does all sorts of editorial-related things for both print and web.

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