Today, Jeb Bush is launching his campaign for president, casting himself as a reasonable, pragmatic, solutions-oriented leader. And today, we launch our own campaign — to make sure he doesn’t get away with this large and dangerous lie.
It’s time for Americans, especially younger voters, to learn the truth about Jeb’s downright shocking record of trying to control women’s decisions, their bodies, and their lives.
For many of us, debunking Jeb’s “moderate” image only takes two words: Terri Schiavo.
But many of the voters who will decide our next president were in grade school when Jeb Bush showed America what kind of “leader” he really is. And if you are one of those newer voters, you may not remember when, as governor, Jeb Bush turned an actual human being into a political football. He attempted to take “custody” of Floridian Terri Schiavo, a woman who had spent 15 years in a vegetative state, in order to deny the Schiavo’s the right to make their own medical decisions.
Jeb’s actions in the Schiavo case divided the nation and dominated the headlines. But it wasn’t the only case during his career as governor of Florida in which Jeb personally interfered in a woman’s health care decision.
The list is long.
In 2003, a 22-year-old Florida woman living in a state group home was raped, and became pregnant. Jeb went to court to try to appoint a guardian — not for the developmentally disabled woman, but for the fetus, a blatant attempt to put his own right-wing politics ahead of her well-being.
Two years later, a 13-year-old girl, “L.G.,” a ward of the state, became pregnant after running away from a state group home. She told her caseworker that she wanted to end the pregnancy — in her words, “because I’m 13, I’m in a shelter, and I can’t get a job” — but Jeb launched yet another legal battle, interfering in an attempt to force her to give birth. Once again, Floridians were treated to the spectacle of their governor going to court to argue that Jeb knew best.
In some ways, this is just what you’d expect from a guy who has described himself as “probably the most pro-life governor in modern times” (a sentiment that doesn’t exactly rhyme with “moderate”).
And the rest of Jeb’s record as governor backs up the claim. He signed into law six anti-abortion measures during his tenure, including one that could put doctors in jail. He tried to shut down abortion clinics with rules that the Tampa Bay Times wrote were “clearly written by bureaucrats, not health professionals.” He pumped millions of taxpayer dollars into abstinence-only programs that don’t work, and cut funding for family planning programs that do.
But even calling him “just another extreme anti-choice right-wing Republican” is a serious understatement.
We’re not the only folks who have compared the Republican leadership’s views toward women to an episode of Mad Men. But when it comes to his thoughts about the way women should be treated in our society, Jeb Bush makes Don Draper look like feminist Betty Friedan. Forget about the 1960s as depicted in Mad Men — Jeb’s taking it all the way back to the 1600s, as depicted by Nathaniel Hawthorne in The Scarlet Letter.
As governor, Jeb wrote a book that — literally! — called for the public shaming of single mothers. Seriously, the chapter is entitled, “The Restoration of Shame.” And he wasn’t just attacking women who decided to end a pregnancy, but all women who had sex lives that were not approved by Jeb.
“There was a time,” he sniffs, “when neighbors and communities would frown on out of wedlock births and when public condemnation was enough of a stimulus for one to be careful.”
(Or to be pushed to a dangerous self-induced or back-alley abortion.)
Six years after that stunning treatise, Jeb took it even further, supporting Florida’s “Scarlet Letter law.” This law said that, if you got pregnant in Jeb Bush’s Florida, and you didn’t know who the father was, and you wanted to place the baby for adoption, you had to take out a newspaper ad detailing your sexual history. Even if you were under 18. Even if you were a survivor of rape.
Unfortunately for Jeb, it isn’t the 17th century anymore. Americans — especially the more than 16 million young people who will turn 18 in time to vote in 2016 — aren’t interested in a right-wing ideologue for president. We don’t want a “slut-shamer”-in-chief.
Jeb may be a leading contender in the race to the bottom on women’s health that is the Republican primary of late, but when general election voters see his well-documented desire to control women’s reproductive health and life choices, he’s the one who’ll be in for a public humiliation. Any politician who still wants to shame women in the year 2015 risks the American people shaming him — and well deserves a letter of his own: an “L” for “Loser.”