Jeb Bush said Wednesday that Congress should investigate recent videos that have embroiled Planned Parenthood in controversy, saying if he were president, he would review government spending on organizations that he said have a “deep political agenda.”
“It just troubles me that you would sell body parts. It just makes no sense to me,” he said Wednesday during a stop at the Carolina Pregnancy Center in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
The Center for Medical Progress, an anti-abortion group, says undercover videos they released prove that Planned Parenthood is selling the body parts of aborted fetuses, a practice that is illegal and that the group denies doing. The center released both edited and unedited videos last week of a Planned Parenthood executive discussing money related to aborted fetus organs and tissues.
A second edited video surfaced Tuesday featuring Mary Gatter, president of the group’s medical director council, discussing money with an actor posing as a representative from a biotech company. The group later posted what they said was an unedited version to YouTube.
“That is not a compassionate situation. Congress has every right to investigate these abuses,” Bush said, noting that Planned Parenthood receives $500 million from the federal government.
“I think it’s time for us to re-evaluate all these programs. Government spends way too much to start with,” Bush said. “There should be a thorough review of spending in Washington, D.C., particularly organizations that have a very deep political agenda. And that would be part of my mission as president, as well”
Bush’s comments – his most elaborate on the issue to date – come as other Republican presidential hopefuls are flexing more muscle in their opposition to Planned Parenthood.
Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul, for example, introduced an amendment Wednesday to end federal funding for Planned Parenthood, while Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has launched an investigation in his state. Earlier this week, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie pledged to defund the group as president.
Pushing back, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards tweeted last week that Republican candidates “are tripping over themselves to attack PP because they think that’s how to win elections.”
Earlier Wednesday, Bush met with a group of local faith leaders in upstate South Carolina. He also weighed in on social issues when he was asked by a voter later in the afternoon at a town hall in Aiken, South Carolina, about Pope Francis’ biting criticism of capitalism.
While in Latin America this month, the Pope argued that the poor are often sacrificed on the “altar of money” under contemporary capitalism, and he blasted the relentless pursuit of profits as the “dung of the devil.”
Bush, who is Catholic, defended the Pope, calling him “gifted beyond belief” and whose “voice is one of love and compassion” that’s challenging “us to care for the sick and the feeble, (and) disabled.”
But he acknowledged that his church “sometimes misses” that “entrepreneurial capitalism, done the right way, where people are lifted out of poverty, is not in contradiction to the teachings of the church.”
“If you want to create a society that’s loving and caring, let them have a little bit of their money in their pockets so they can act on their consciousness to help others,” he said. “I don’t see this as a contradiction but sometimes in the political realm, the Pope’s words are viewed as an attack on capitalism. I don’t think he sees it that way, and I don’t see it that way either.”
It was another example of Bush finding himself talking about Pope Francis – who he said Wednesday was “the main guy” in his faith – on the campaign trail. In New Hampshire last month, he said he disagreed with the Pope on climate change, adding that he doesn’t get his economic policy from his bishops or the pope.
But the former governor offered unending praise of the Pope on Wednesday and criticized the media for not giving the Pope attention when he talks about “wholesome, traditional family” or about the “importance of life from beginning to end.”
“You don’t hear those two things because that’s part of life I guess when we have to live in a secular world,” he said.
Bush added that he’s hoping to attend a mass by the pope when he visits the United States later this year.
CNN’s Eugene Scott and Daniel Burke contributed to this report.