Jeb Bush touted his intervention in the Terri Schiavo case and support for abortion restrictions Friday in an address to a gathering of conservatives that views the Bush family name warily.
Speaking before the Faith & Freedom Coalition’s conference, Bush said he would forgo a political speech in lieu of talking about his faith. But he made repeated reference to his record as governor of Florida, saying that when he was elected he insisted his administration would “build a culture of life from beginning to end.”
Religious conservative voters - who play an outsized role in many states - have viewed Bush with skepticism, given his support for the Common Core education standards and legalization for those in the U.S. illegally.
Bush opened his remarks by offering condolences for the Charleston, South Carolina shooting, which he said had had a “big impact” on him. He noted that he had just landed there for a campaign event, but thought it was appropriate to cancel it.
“I don't know what was on the mind or the heart of the man who committed these atrocious crimes, but I do know what was in the heart of the victims,” Bush said. “They were meeting in brotherhood and sisterhood in that church. They were learning and studying the word of the Lord, to find grace in his kingdom, to fill his house with love.”
Bush, who converted to Catholicism for his wife, Columba, said his faith is an “organizing part of my architecture,” as a person and, as an elected official.
He said when he became governor he was “shocked” at what he said was the “total lack” of regulations at abortion clinics and pushed for regulations on the clinics. He said he also signed a partial birth abortion ban, led a fight for a constitutional amendment requiring parental notice for abortions and signed into law a bill that required 48-hour notice to a parent or guardian.
And he defended his role in the Schiavo case, including his support for a law that ordered doctors to reinsert a feeding tube into a comatose woman six days after it had been removed under a court order. The law was later struck down as unconsitutional.
“When I was asked to intervene on behalf of a woman who could not speak up for herself, I stood on her side,” Bush said. “I stood on the side of Terry Schiavo and her parents.”
He warned that religious freedom is “under attack in ways that we've never seen before, “ from the Obama administration and the “general culture.”
“In a big, diverse country, we need to make sure that we protect the right not just of having religious views but the right of acting on those views,” he said. “Religious conscience is one of the first freedoms in our country.”
That includes support for people who don’t believe in gay marriage, he said.
“We should not push aside those that do believe in traditional marriage,” he said. “I, for one, believe it's important, and I think it's got to be important over the long haul, irrespective of what courts say.”