As former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) fundraises with his brother George W., the likely 2016 presidential candidate is widely being positioned in the media as the more moderate of the two. But on the issue of abortion, Jeb actually stands to the right of his elder sibling.
Former President George W. Bush has described himself as "pro-life," and in 2003 he signed into law the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban, which outlaws a specific and rarely used procedure. Even so, he was comparatively moderate on abortion rights. Asked directly in 2004 whether he would seek to appoint judges who want to overturn the Supreme Court's landmark abortion rights decision in Roe v. Wade, Bush said that was not something he would take into consideration. "The answer is, no, I will not have a litmus test," Bush said. "I will pick judges who will interpret the Constitution, but I‘ll have no litmus test."
George W. Bush also said he supported legal abortion in cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the mother was in danger, and in 2007 he increased funding for the Title X federal family planning program, which funds Planned Parenthood, by $16.8 million. He said in a debate with Al Gore in 2000 that he was looking for "common ground" with abortion rights supporters on the issue and that he would not try to overturn the Food and Drug Administration's recent approval of the RU-486 abortion pill.
"I hope the FDA took its time to make sure that American women will be safe who use this drug," Bush said.
His younger brother Jeb, meanwhile, declared in 2003 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. He also aggressively intervened in two high-profile cases to prevent a mentally disabled rape victim and a 13-year-old girl from being able to have abortions.
In the former case, involving a 22-year-old rape victim who was both pregnant and developmentally disabled, Bush asked a court to appoint a guardian to represent the woman's fetus. The woman had been raped while living in state-supervised facilities, but did not have the mental capacity to identify her attacker.
''Given the facts of this case, it is entirely appropriate that an advocate be appointed to represent the unborn child's best interests in all decisions,'' the governor said at the time.
In 2005, Bush fought to prevent a pregnant 13-year-old girl, who was a ward of the state, from having an abortion. He was overruled by a judge, and CNN later reported that Bush's "abortion activism shocked some state officials who believed he was reaching beyond the powers of his office."
Kristy Campbell, a spokeswoman for Jeb Bush, told The Huffington Post Wednesday that the former governor opposes abortion except in cases of incest, rape or when the life of the woman is endangered.
The next United States president could have an enormous impact on abortion rights, as potential challenges to Roe v. Wade bubble up in the states and 82-year-old Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a staunch abortion rights supporter, nears retirement. The Supreme Court is nearly evenly divided on the issue of abortion, and Ginsburg's replacement could decide the fate of legal abortion in America.
Jeb Bush would likely appoint a judge who is deeply unfriendly to abortion rights. The former governor recently embraced a federal ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy -- a law that anti-abortion activists hope will be a vehicle through which to challenge Roe. The Supreme Court decision currently protects women's right to have an abortion up until the fetus would be viable outside the womb, about 22 to 24 weeks into the pregnancy.
According to HuffPost Pollster, Bush has a significant lead in the polls over the other potential Republican nominees for 2016. As legal abortion hangs in the balance, women's rights groups are starting to get nervous about the possibility of a Jeb Bush presidency.
"When it comes to access to restricting access to abortion, Jeb Bush is as far to the right as you can go," said Marcy Stech, a spokeswoman for the pro-choice PAC EMILY's List. "Jeb makes W. look like a pillar of reasonable humanity."