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GOP Web site Uses Misleading Kerry Quote On Abortion

When Kerry said abortions should be moved 'into the mainstream of medical practice,' he was talking about safer locations, not more frequent abortions.


A Republican National Committee Web site urging Catholics not to vote for Kerry prominently features a 1994 quote in which Kerry said abortions “need to be moved out of the fringes of medicine and into the mainstream of medical practice.”

But Kerry wasn’t advocating more frequent abortions, he was calling for them to be performed in safe locations. His stated position on abortions is that they should be “safe, legal and rare.”

The Kerry quote came from remarks inserted into the Congressional Record about the murder of two people at a Florida abortion clinic. More recently Kerry has said he’s personally opposed to abortion and believes life begins at conception, even though he favors the right to abortion and has promised if elected to appoint to the Supreme Court only persons who support the Roe v. Wade decision.


The RNC Web site features this header, quoting Kerry as saying “Abortions need to be moved out of the fringes of medicine and into the mainstream of medical practice.”

The quote is accurate — as far as it goes. It is from remarks Kerry inserted into the Congressional Record August 2, 1994.

But standing alone it could give the impression that Kerry was calling for more frequent abortions. In fact, he was talking about the killing of two people and the wounding of a third at a Pensacola, Florida abortion clinic a few days earlier. Here’s what he said, with more context:

Kerry (1994): One of the things that made me especially upset this weekend when I watched television news coverage of the incident was the sign that hung over the abortion clinic. The name of the clinic was “The Ladies Center,” and the typeface on the sign was as blatantly euphemistic as this title. The fact that an abortion clinic needs to be disguised and to be separated from the hospitals, HMO’s, and community health centers where such medical procedures should be performed is as upsetting as the fact that abortion clinics need to be under 24-hour guard .

The wrong response to the Pensacola shootings is to segregate abortions even further from those seeking the procedure. The right thing to do is to treat abortions as exactly what they are–a medical procedure that any doctor is free to provide and any pregnant woman free to obtain. Consequently, abortions should not have to be performed in tightly guarded clinics on the edge of town; they should be performed and obtained in the same locations as any other medical procedure. How can we as political leaders teach tolerance to the public when we still treat women who seek abortions as poorly as less civilized societies treated lepers?

Mr. President, if this Constitutionally protected right is to be preserved, and if women are to be treated decently and with respect, abortions need to be moved out of the fringes of medicine and into the mainstream of medical practice.

And by the same token, if our children are to be safe from the danger of fanaticism, tolerance needs to spread out of the mainstream churches, mosques, and synagogues, and into the religious fringes.

What Kerry was talking about was this: On July 29, 1994 Paul Hill shot and killed Dr. John Bayard Britton and his escort James Herman Barrett at the Ladies Center for Abortion in Pensacola. Britton’s wife had also accompanied him that morning and was wounded in the attack.  Dr. Britton had replaced Dr. David Gunn who was killed a year earlier in another shooting at the same clinic.

Hill had commented earlier that year, “The Christian principle is to do unto others as you would have them do unto you. . . If an abortionist is about to violently take an innocent person’s life, you are entirely morally justified in trying to prevent him from taking that life.”

Hill was convicted of murder and executed on September 3, 2003 in Florida.

Kerry’s Position on Abortion

Kerry has favored a legal right to abortion over the entire course of his Senate career. He promises that he won’t appoint anyone to the Supreme Court who opposes the Roe v. Wade decision:

Kerry Web site: John Kerry will only nominate individuals to the federal bench whose records demonstrate a respect for the full range of constitutional rights, including the right to privacy and the right to choose.

Kerry, a Roman Catholic, has also stated recently that personally he believes that life starts at conception. In an interview last July Kerry was quoted in the Dubuque, Iowa Telegraph Herald as saying (as repeated later by the Washington Post ):

Kerry (July, 2004): I oppose abortion, personally. I don’t like abortion. I believe that life does start at conception.

Kerry’s spokeswoman Stephanie Cutter said at the time that Kerry’s often-stated position is that abortions should be “safe, legal and rare.”


Supporting Documents

View Full Kerry Statement


US Congressional Record, Vol. 140 S10393, “Pensacola Anti-Abortion Murders and Religious Fanaticism,” 2 August 1994.

Bill Kaczor, “Two Slain, Third Wounded at Pensacola Abortion Clinic,” The Associated Press, 29 July 1994.

David Royse, “No Threats Day After Paul Hill Execution,” The Associated
Press, 4 September 2003.

Jonathan Finer, “Kerry Says He Believes Life Starts at Conception,” Washington Post 5 July 2004: A6.