Governor Jeb Bush talked in depth about his pro-life views during an interview with Chuck Todd on Sunday. Bush expressed strong misgivings about the death penalty, saying he still supports it but that “it has to be reformed.” Bush also reiterated his support for “exceptions” in abortion bans for cases like rape and life-threatening complications, but rejected Todd’s call for an ambiguous exception based on “health.” You can watch the full interview below:
CHUCK TODD: In 1996 you told Larry King that you didn’t think Bob Dole should have a litmus tests for cabinet appointments or judicial appointments. That one issue shouldn’t do it, at the time —
JEB BUSH: Right.
CHUCK TODD: — referring to abortion. You said, ‘You know what? There’s 100 things that make somebody a conservative, not just one issue.’
JEB BUSH: Right.
CHUCK TODD: Do you still believe that? No litmus tests?
JEB BUSH: I don’t believe in litmus tests, but I’m going to make sure that my appointments to the Supreme Court would have a consistent proven record of judicial restraint.
CHUCK TODD: So you’re not going to ask a potential Supreme Court justice if they would overturn Roe v. Wade?
JEB BUSH: No, but I would ask deep questions about judicial philosophy, and then make sure that the person had a proven record. I think the lessons of the last few years is that you’ve got to fight for your candidates that you nominate, and they ought to have a clear, consistent record so that you have a higher assurance they’re not going to wander off.
CHUCK TODD: You had said that, at the time, you didn’t think that there was a broad enough consensus to fight for a constitutional amendment against abortion. You still feel that way?
JEB BUSH: I think that what we ought to do is elect conservatives, like myself and others, that believe that life is a gift from God and life is precious.
CHUCK TODD: Speaking of life, have you changed your mind on the death penalty?
JEB BUSH: I’m conflicted. I am. It was the law of the land when I was governor, and I faithfully dealt with it. To be honest with you, it is not a deterrent anymore because it’s seldom used. It clogs up the courts, it costs a ton of money. And —
CHUCK TODD: Are you one of those that look at the fiscal part of it and say, ‘You know what? Maybe it makes more fiscal sense to not do it’?
JEB BUSH: Here’s the one thing, and it’s hard for me, as a human being, to sign the death warrant, to be honest with you. I’m informed by my faith in many things, and this is one of them. So I have to admit that I’m conflicted about this. But here’s the deal, when you meet people, this happens in rare cases where the death penalty’s given out and you meet family members that have lost a loved one and it’s still in their heart. It’s etched in their soul. And this is the way that they get closure, I get more comfortable with it, to be honest with you. But we should reform it. If it’s to be used as a deterrent, it has to be reformed. It can’t take 25 years. That does no one any good. Neither the victims nor the state is solving this problem with that kind of tangled judicial process.
CHUCK TODD: So you’re still in favor of it, but?
JEB BUSH: Yeah, but I’m just saying, look, this is life, Chuck. It’s not all either/or. Sometimes you can see both sides. And I believe life is truly a gift from God, and innocent life particularly should be protected at all cost, for sure. But people that commit these crimes, there should be — justice can’t be denied. And it shouldn’t be delayed. And maybe there’s a better way to do this where victims feel as though they’re being served, because that should be front and center, the first obligation of the state.
CHUCK TODD: One quick follow on abortion. What exceptions are you comfortable with on abortion?
JEB BUSH: I accept, just that my views haven’t changed. I believe in the exceptions of rape and incest and the life of the mother, of course.
CHUCK TODD: Is there a line on health? What is that line on life and health of the mother?
JEB BUSH: Well, the life of the mother, not health of the mother.
Nick Arnold is a researcher for the American Principles Project.