AT THE DEBATE last Friday night, audience member Sarah Degenhart asked John Kerry, "Suppose you are speaking with a voter who believed abortion is murder, and the voter asked for reassurance that his or her tax dollars would not go to support abortion. What would you say to that person?"

Whatever you think about abortion, President Bush was right that Kerry's answer needs some deciphering, particularly involving partial-birth abortion.

Kerry said, "I'm against the partial-birth abortion, but you have 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."

In response to the Supreme Court's ruling in Stenberg v. Carhart, which overturned a Nebraska law banning partial-birth abortion--in part because of the health of the mother issue--the partial-birth ban that Congress recently passed and the president signed into law, does include congressional findings that the method is "never medically indicated to preserve the health of the mother" and may in fact expose her to substantial health risks.

Nevertheless, the bill does have an explicit exception to allow the method if it were ever at any time necessary to prevent the death of the mother. Kerry voted against the bill six times.

Instead, he voted for the Feinstein Substitute that would have allowed partial-birth with no restrictions in the fifth and six months, and allowed partial-birth abortion in the seventh month and later for health reasons including mental and emotional well-being.

Kerry also voted for the Daschle Substitute that would allow late term abortions for any degree whatever of physical risk--a standard, that according to a leading late term abortion practitioner, would apply to every pregnancy.

In response to President Bush's assertion that Senator Kerry opposes parental notification laws, Kerry replied, "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 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 to get help I voted against it. It's never quite as simple as the president wants you to believe."

Except that it is. Leaving aside the fact that incest-related abortion concerns are pretty rare in this country, Kerry's statement is a distortion of his record.

Kerry has repeatedly voted against parental notification requirements--even though they included provisions, as required by the Supreme Court, to let a minor go before a judge to waive parental notification and/or allow the minor to foreclose notification by informing the abortion provider that she is the victim of rape, incest, or sexual abuse.

In a statement his campaign released on July 15, 2004, Kerry offered the objection to parental notification requirements on the grounds that such requirements put the minor at "risk" of "unwanted childbirth."

Rachel DiCarlo is an editorial assistant at The Weekly Standard.

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