Bush Talks to Focus on the Family on Life, Religious Liberty

Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (photo credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0)
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (photo credit: Gage Skidmore, CC BY-SA 2.0)

Yesterday, Jeb Bush appeared on the Focus on the Family radio show with Jim Daly and John Fuller. The hosts asked him to discuss the life issue:

Jim: Hey, let me ask you this, moving to a different topic. When you look at the issue of life, when you were governor in Florida, you had, you know, a highly covered case with Terri Schiavo.

Here in Colorado, when we’re talking about this issue of life generally, we’ve had this horrific situation where this expectant mother, seven months along, a former nurses’s aide, allegedly drugged the woman and did a C-section and took that baby from her womb.

And here in Colorado, many of us in the pro-life movement and others are saying, this woman should be charged with attempted murder or murder. The baby died in that situation. But here in Colorado, babies aren’t protected in the womb in that way. Even a viable baby like that, there’s no murder charge coming against that woman.

Talk about life in general. I know these are very specific cases, but what’s your perspective on it? What do we do as a nation to regain the moral equilibrium here to say, a baby in the womb is important and should be important to all of us?

Jeb: In our society, we have consistently, you know, it plays out almost every week. There’s an example of conflicting rights under the law. And I think in the case of unborn children or the most vulnerable, I mean, I think this is an issue not just among the unborn, but also people that, there’s a big movement now, increasing number of assisted suicides.

John: Uh-hm.

Jeb: The most vulnerable in our society need to be protected. They need to have legal rights. And as a society, we need to recognize their value and their worth. And so, as governor, informed by a deeply held belief that was informed by my faith, I tried to persuade people first. I was not I don’t think being judgmental and kind of coming down from the podium and telling them how it’s gonna be is the proper approach. You need to be respectful of the fact that in a diverse society, that people have different views about this, but I don’t think you pull back from your deeply held views. You need to persuade people that protecting an innocent child is a definition of who we are in the broadest possible sense.

So, in Florida, I got a chance to do that. We put restrictions around abortion clinics that weren’t regulated like regular medical clinics.

Jim: Yeah.

Jeb: We supported, and ruled unconstitutional the first time, parental consent and then we now have parental notification. We banned partial birth abortions. We created many more options for adoption out of foster care and in general. We were the only state, I believe, to have funded with state monies crisis pregnancy centers to provide counselors so that these not-for-profits that in many cases aren’t as well funded as many others, could act on their mission, which is to provide broader support, but the actual counseling was done, you know, paid for by the state. It was a godsend for these crisis pregnancy centers and a lot of babies’ lives were saved and a lot of families got the joy of being able to bring a child up in their home.

Bush was also asked to weigh in on religious liberty:

Jim: Right. Let’s talk about religious liberty. A lot of us in the Christian community are concerned, because it definitely seems today that religious freedoms are being curtailed. And we see court case after court case. And of course, we have the Supreme Court case coming up on the definition of marriage and many of us are anticipating that’s not gonna be favorable, that they’re gonna redefine marriage as we have known it for all these years. When you look at religious liberties in this country, what concerns you as a former governor? And what do you think needs to be done to protect everybody? This is a pluralistic culture. I get that.

Jeb: Yeah.

Jim: But boy, it seems like religious freedom is core to who we are as Americans.

Jeb: I completely agree. In fact, this interestingly is a global issue—

Jim: Huh.

Jeb: –as well, because there’s to be first—

Jim: Boy, yeah.

Jeb: –I mean, religious freedom could mean the death of someone, you know, around the world, as well. Christians are being persecuted in a pace and the depth of which has never in modern times, we had not seen—

Jim: Correct.

Jeb: –so we always have to be mindful of that. But as it relates to our own country, I do think that we need to take a stand, that a big country as noble and with its history as a beacon of freedom basically, we’re the last great, best hope for freedom. And we’ve been that way for a long while, that amongst ourselves, we oughta figure out a way how we can sort out the fact that people aren’t gonna be discriminated against under the law and that people have the right space to act on their conscience.

Jim: Yeah.

Jeb: It is a non-negotiable point, because if we start, you know, what other element of the Bill of Rights is next, if the First Amendment right, if that’s gone, then what’s next? I mean, this is a slippery slope and this has to be sorted out in a different way than having a crisis, you know, occur in a state capital and then have this avalanche of opposition, where people are just, you know, worried about the economic repercussions, rather than having a more civil conversation about how we sort this out to protect people’s religious freedoms.

Joshua Pinho works for American Principles in Action.