The Republican presidential contender's comment came at a major gathering of evangelicals in Tennessee
From Clinton's official account, her campaign tweeted Bush's remark and said: "You are absolutely, unequivocally wrong."
In the midst of the former Florida governor’s attack on Planned Parenthood at an evangelical conference Tuesday afternoon, he said: “I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues.”
Clinton sought to make the most of his remark, knocking Bush at a Denver event Tuesday evening, saying the comment provides a window into what “Republican candidates really believe.”
“I would like to ask him, ‘Gov. Bush try telling that to the mom who caught her breast cancer early because she was able to to get screening in time. Was her health not worth the money?” she said. “Tell it to the teenager who avoided an unintended pregnancy because she had access to contraception. Tell it to everyone who was protected by an HIV test.”
Shortly after Bush’s initial remark, his team sought to mitigate the potential political fallout. The campaign issued a statement on Bush’s behalf attempting to explain his remark – and then, realizing that they’d sent a draft that hadn’t included the words “I misspoke,” followed up 25 minutes later with a second version.
But in the immediate aftermath, Bush and Clinton took to trading jabs on Twitter.
From Clinton’s official account, her campaign tweeted Bush’s remark, tagged the former Florida governor and said: “You are absolutely, unequivocally wrong.”
That led Bush to respond in an attempt to shift focus onto Democrats’ support for Planned Parenthood.
“.@HillaryClinton what’s absolutely, unequivocally wrong is giving taxpayer $ to an org whose practices show no regard for lives of unborn,” Bush tweeted.
Bush’s comment came at a major gathering of evangelicals in Tennessee that’s in part sponsored by the Southern Baptist Convention. He called for a halt to the $500 million in federal health care dollars that flow to Planned Parenthood to pay largely for low-income women’s health services.
“You could take dollar-for-dollar – although I’m not sure we need half a billion dollars for women’s health issues – but if you took dollar-for-dollar, there are many extraordinarily fine community health organizations that exist to provide quality care for women on a wide variety of health issues,” Bush said.
The remark drew applause at the convention, which event organizers said 13,000 people attended, but proved much more controversial outside it.
One Clinton aide, spokesman Josh Schwerin, tweeted to wonder whether any Republican would criticize Bush’s remarks, “or will they all stay quiet since they agree?”
One of Bush’s GOP presidential rivals, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, provided Bush with some cover.
“.@HillaryClinton is proud to stand with Planned Parenthood. For that she ought to be ashamed,” tweeted Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
Planned Parenthood, meanwhile, lambasted the remark, saying it is emblematic of Bush’s beliefs.
“Jeb Bush didn’t misspeak – he told the rest of America what Florida women have known for years, which is that he doesn’t believe women’s health is worth much,” said Eric Ferrero, vice president of communications for Planned Parenthood Action Fund, in a statement.
Bush attempted to walk back his remark Tuesday evening, but it took his campaign two attempts. The first, “draft” statement said: “With regards to women’s health funding broadly, I believe 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.
A spokeswoman followed up 25 minutes later saying she had mistakenly sent a draft, and offered an updated version, this one including the admission from Bush that he “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,” Bush said in that second statement.
“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.”
It wasn’t just Democrats who blasted Bush for his on-stage remark. Guy Benson, the political editor at the conservative news website Townhall, tweeted that Bush’s comment will allow Democrats to obfuscate on five controversial Planned Parenthood videos that have stoked a conservative push to block federal funds from flowing to the organization by conflating that push with a debate over women’s health.
Bush, who repeatedly portrays himself as a pro-life candidate, is also taking heat from the right on abortion. Last week it was reported that Bush served as a director of a philanthropy started by ex-New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that donated $50 million to reproductive health causes and paired up with Planned Parenthood for the initiative.
Bush’s campaign has said that the former governor was not involved in any projects associated with the reproductive health program, but the story nonetheless caught fire in conservative news outlets.
Russell Moore, the president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention who interviewed Bush on stage Tuesday, said he contacted Bush’s campaign immediately after seeing the reports.
“And they assured me he did not have any authority to approve those sorts of grants and that he wouldn’t,” he told reporters Tuesday. “He was simply participating with Bloomberg in terms of education issues.”
CNN’s Dan Merica contributed to this report