Saturday, October 09, 2004




This is a commentary from the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC) regarding statements made by Senator John Kerry (D-Mass.) during the second presidential candidates' debate on October 8, 2004.  For further information, send an e-mail to, or call 202-626-8825 or 202-626-8820.   If direct attribution is required, the statements below may be attributed to NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson.


In response to question regarding the merits of using adult stem cells versus embryonic stem cells in research, Kerry said, "Now I think we can do ethically guided embryonic stem cell research.  We have 100,000 to 200,000 embryos that are frozen in nitrogen today from fertility clinics.  These weren't taken from abortion or something like that.  They're from a fertility clinic.  And they're either going to be destroyed or left frozen."

NRLC's disagreement with Kerry's support for federal funding of research that requires killing human embryos created by in vitro fertilization (IVF), and our agreement with President Bush's policy, are set forth in detail elsewhere.  (See  We make here this additional key point:  When Kerry says "embryonic stem cell research," he does NOT mean ONLY using human embryos who were frozen after being created by IVF to produce pregnancies. 

On July 13, 2004, Kerry also cosponsored S. 303, a bill to promote the creation of human embryos by cloning for use in stem cell research.  The bill specifically provides that these human embryos must not be allowed to develop past 14 days, which is why pro-life opponents refer to it as a "clone and kill" bill.  This bill has NOTHING to do with research using embryos created by in vitro fertilization.  Rather, it would advance the establishment of what President Bush has aptly referred to as "human embryo farms."  For further explanation of this bill, the blatantly conflicting statements by the Kerry campaign about the bill, and two recent public opinion polls on the issue of using cloning to produce human embryos for research, see this memo:


Senator Kerry said, "I'm against the partial-birth abortion, but you've got to have an exception for the life of the mother and the health of the mother under the strictest test of bodily injury to the mother." 

First of all, the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban has (and has always had) an explicit exception to allow the method to be used if it were ever necessary to save the life of a mother.  (This is a point that Senator John Edwards directly misrepresented in a press release the day the bill was signed into law by President Bush, on November 5, 2003). 

John Kerry repeatedly voted for "substitute amendments" that would have wiped out the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act and substituted "phony bans" that would have (1) allowed partial-birth abortions with NO restrictions in the fifth and sixth months, which is when the vast majority are performed, AND ALSO (2) allowed partial-birth abortion even in the seventh month and later either for "health" reasons -- a term that legally includes mental and emotional "well being" (for example, Feinstein Substitute, May 15, 1997, roll call no. 288, failed 28-72), OR, in another approach, allowed post-viability abortions for any degree whatever of "risk" of serious physical health damage -- a standard that a leading practitioner of late abortions said would apply to every pregnancy (Daschle Substitute, May 15, 1997, roll call no. 70, failed 36-64; and Durbin Substitute, October 20, 1999, roll call no. 335, tabled 61-38). 

After these killer substitutes were rejected, Kerry voted against passing the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act every chance he got -- six times. 

For more documentation on this issue, see


In response to a statement by President Bush that Sen. Kerry opposes requiring parental notification for abortion, Kerry replied:  "Secondly, with respect to parental notification, I'm not going to require a 16- or 17-year-old kid who's been raped by her father and who's pregnant to have to notify her father.  So you've got to have a judicial intervention.  And because they didn't have a judicial intervention where she could go somewhere and get help I voted against it.  It's never quite as simple as the president wants you to believe."

Kerry's answer completely misrepresented his voting record on parental notification requirements.  Kerry has repeatedly voted AGAINST parental notification requirements even though they incorporated provisions, as required by the Supreme Court, to permit any minor to go before a judge to waive parental notification, and/or that simply allowed the minor herself to foreclose notification by informing the abortion provider that she is the victim of rape, incest, or sexual abuse.

Moreover, in a statement issued by his campaign on July 15, 2004, Kerry offered far most expansive objections to parental notification requirements, including what he sees as the danger that such requirements put teenagers at "risk" of "unwanted childbirth."  The July 15 statement went on, "And that's why Kerry voted for common-sense parental consent measures that encourage young woman to talk to their parents about options surrounding an unwanted pregnancy, BUT still make sure that the young woman's welfare and safety is protected by including BROAD EXEMPTIONS for grandparents, aunts, and uncles to provide consent, [OR] the young woman's doctor to indicate that a medical emergency exists, [OR] a court determines that an abortion would be in the young woman's best interest, OR a licensed or certified professional certifies that parental notification could put the young woman at risk."  [capitals added for emphasis]

This Kerry statement is still posted on the Internet at, or it may be obtained by fax or e-mail from NRLC.

Regarding Kerry's votes against parental notification, we cite here just two examples. 

In 1998 Kerry voted to block the Child Custody Protection Act.  This bill would make it a federal crime to take a minor across state lines for a secret abortion in order to evade a home-state parental notification law -- but the bill applied ONLY to the state parental notification laws that had passed federal court approval, all of which include the judicial bypass provisions required by the Supreme Court.  (Unsuccessful attempt to invoke cloture on S. 1645, Sept. 22, 1998, roll call no. 282). 

In 1991, Kerry voted against multiple genuine parental notification amendments, supporting instead various proposals to codify parental circumvention.  For example, Kerry opposed the Coats Amendment (July 16, 1991, Coats Amendment to S. 303).  The Coats Amendment would have required organizations that receive certain federal funds to notify one parent before performing an abortion on a minor, but it contained a number of broad exemptions, covering any cases in which the minor "declares" that the pregnancy resulted from incest with a parent OR "declares" that she had been subjected to OR was at "risk" (degree of risk unspecified) of "sexual abuse" OR "child abuse" OR "child neglect."  In addition, the Coats Amendment contained a medical emergency exception.  Kerry voted against it.   Here is the full text of the Coats Amendment, electronically copied from the Congressional Record, but with capitals added for clarity:

< [No notification need occur if] (2) The physician with principal responsibility for making the decision to perform the abortion certifies in the minor's medical record that she is suffering from a physical disorder or disease making the abortion necessary to prevent her death and there is insufficient time to provide the required notice. [OR] (3) THE MINOR DECLARES that the pregnancy resulted from incest with a parent or guardian of the minor OR that she has been subjected to OR is at RISK of sexual abuse, child abuse, OR child neglect by a parent or guardian, as defined by the applicable State law, provided that in any such case the physician notifies the authorities specified by such State law to receive reports of child abuse or neglect of the known or suspected abuse or neglect before the abortion is performed. >


Anonymous Anonymous said...

when he ran in 1978 bush was pro-choice...

The Avalanche-Journal reported: "Bush said he opposes the pro-life amendment favored by Reese and favors leaving up to a woman and her doctor the abortion question. 'That does not mean I'm for abortion,' he said."

2:29 PM  

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