Below is the text of the town-hall debate between President Bush and John Kerry:
GIBSON: Senator Kerry, the next question is for you, and it comes from Elizabeth Long.
LONG: Senator Kerry, thousands of people have already been cured or treated by the use of adult stem cells or umbilical cord stem cells. However, no one has been cured by using embryonic stem cells.
Wouldn't it be wide to use stem cells obtained without the destruction of an embryo?
KERRY: You know, Elizabeth, I really respect your -- the feeling that's in your question. I understand it. I know the morality that's prompting that question, and I respect it enormously.
But like Nancy Reagan, and so many other people -- you know, I was at a forum with Michael J. Fox the other day in New Hampshire, who's suffering from Parkinson's, and he wants us to do stem cell, embryonic stem cell. And this fellow stood up, and he was quivering. His whole body was shaking from the nerve disease, the muscular disease that he had.
And he said to me and to the whole hall, he said, You know, don't take away my hope, because my hope is what keeps me going.
Chris Reeve is a friend of mine. Chris Reeve exercises every single day to keep those muscles alive for the day when he believes he can walk again, and I want him to walk again.
I think we can save lives.
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.
And I believe if we have the option, which scientists tell us we do, of curing Parkinson's, curing diabetes, curing, you know, some kind of a, you know, paraplegic or quadriplegic or, you know, a spinal cord injury, anything, that's the nature of the human spirit.
I think it is respecting life to reach for that cure. I think it is respecting life to do it in an ethical way.
And the president has chosen a policy that makes it impossible for our scientists to do that. I want the future, and I think we have to grab it.
GIBSON: Mr. President, a minute and a half.
BUSH: Embryonic stem-cell research requires the destruction of life to create a stem cell. I'm the first president ever to allow funding -- federal funding -- for embryonic stem-cell research. I did to because I too hope that we'll discover cures from the stem cells and from the research derived.
But I think we've got to be very careful in balancing the ethics and the science.
BUSH: And so I made the decision we wouldn't spend any more money beyond the 70 lines, 22 of which are now in action, because science is important, but so is ethics, so is balancing life. To destroy life to save life is -- it's one of the real ethical dilemmas that we face.
There is going to be hundreds of experiments off the 22 lines that now exist that are active, and hopefully we find a cure. But as well, we need to continue to pursue adult stem-cell research.
I helped double the NIH budget to $28 billion a year to find cures. And the approach I took is one that I think is a balanced and necessary approach, to balance science and the concerns for life.
GIBSON: Senator, 30 seconds, less extent.
KERRY: Well, you talk about walking a waffle line -- he says he's allowed it, which means he's going to allow the destruction of life up to a certain amount and then he isn't going to allow it.
I don't know how you draw that line.
But let me tell you, point blank, the lines of stem cells that he's made available, every scientist in the country will tell you, Not adequate, because they're contaminated by mouse cells, and because there aren't 60 or 70 -- they're are only about 11 to 20 now -- and there aren't enough to be able to do the research because they're contaminated.
We've got to open up the possibilities of this research. And when I am president, I'm going to do it because we have to.
GIBSON: Mr. President?
BUSH: Let me make sure you understand my decision. Those stem- cells lines already existed. The embryo had already been destroyed prior to my decision.
I had to make the decision to destroy more life, so we continue to destroy life -- I made the decision to balance science and ethics.
GIBSON: Mr. President, the next question is for you, and it comes from Jonathan Michaelson, over here.
MICHAELSON: Mr. President, if there were a vacancy in the Supreme Court and you had the opportunity to fill that position today, who would you choose and why?
BUSH: I'm not telling.
I really don't have -- haven't picked anybody yet. Plus, I want them all voting for me.
I would pick somebody who would not allow their personal opinion to get in the way of the law. I would pick somebody who would strictly interpret the Constitution of the United States.
Let me give you a couple of examples, I guess, of the kind of person I wouldn't pick.
I wouldn't pick a judge who said that the Pledge of Allegiance couldn't be said in a school because it had the words under God in it. I think that's an example of a judge allowing personal opinion to enter into the decision-making process as opposed to a strict interpretation of the Constitution.
Another example would be the Dred Scott case, which is where judges, years ago, said that the Constitution allowed slavery because of personal property rights.
That's a personal opinion. That's not what the Constitution says. The Constitution of the United States says we're all -- you know, it doesn't say that. It doesn't speak to the equality of America.
And so, I would pick people that would be strict constructionists. We've got plenty of lawmakers in Washington, D.C. Legislators make law; judges interpret the Constitution.
And I suspect one of us will have a pick at the end of next year -- the next four years. And that's the kind of judge I'm going to put on there. No litmus test except for how they interpret the Constitution.
GIBSON: Senator Kerry, a minute and a half.
KERRY: Thank you, Charlie.
A few years ago when he came to office, the president said -- these are his words -- What we need are some good conservative judges on the courts.
And he said also that his two favorite justices are Justice Scalia and Justice Thomas.
So you get a pretty good sense of where he's heading if he were to appoint somebody. Now, here's what I believe. I don't believe we need a good conservative judge, and I don't believe we need a good liberal judge. I don't believe we need a good judge of that kind of definition on either side.
I subscribe to the Justice Potter Stewart standard. He was a justice on the Supreme Court of the United States. And he said the mark of a good judge, good justice, is that when you're reading their decision, their opinion, you can't tell if it's written by a man or woman, a liberal or a conservative, a Muslim, a Jew or a Christian. You just know you're reading a good judicial decision.
What I want to find, if I am privileged to have the opportunity to do it -- and the Supreme Court of the United States is at stake in this race, ladies and gentlemen.
The future of things that matter to you -- in terms of civil rights, what kind of Justice Department you'll have, whether we'll enforce the law. Will we have equal opportunity? Will women's rights be protected? Will we have equal pay for women, which is going backwards? Will a woman's right to choose be protected?
These are constitutional rights, and I want to make sure we have judges who interpret the Constitution of the United States according to the law.
GIBSON: Going to go to the final two questions now, and the first one will be for Senator Kerry. And this comes from Sarah Degenhart.
DEGENHART: Senator 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?
KERRY: I would say to that person exactly what I will say to you right now.
First of all, I cannot tell you how deeply I respect the belief about life and when it begins. I'm a Catholic, raised a Catholic. I was an altar boy. Religion has been a huge part of my life. It helped lead me through a war, leads me today.
But I can't take what is an article of faith for me and legislate it for someone who doesn't share that article of faith, whether they be agnostic, atheist, Jew, Protestant, whatever. I can't do that.
But I can counsel people. I can talk reasonably about life and about responsibility. I can talk to people, as my wife Teresa does, about making other choices, and about abstinence, and about all these other things that we ought to do as a responsible society.
But as a president, I have to represent all the people in the nation. And I have to make that judgment.
Now, I believe that you can take that position and not be pro- abortion, but you have to afford people their constitutional rights. And that means being smart about allowing people to be fully educated, to know what their options are in life, and making certain that you don't deny a poor person the right to be able to have whatever the constitution affords them if they can't afford it otherwise.
That's why I think it's important. That's why I think it's important for the United States, for instance, not to have this rigid ideological restriction on helping families around the world to be able to make a smart decision about family planning.
You'll help prevent AIDS.
You'll help prevent unwanted children, unwanted pregnancies.
You'll actually do a better job, I think, of passing on the moral responsibility that is expressed in your question. And I truly respect it.
GIBSON: Mr. President, minute and a half.
BUSH: I'm trying to decipher that.
My answer is, we're not going to spend taxpayers' money on abortion.
This is an issue that divides America, but certainly reasonable people can agree on how to reduce abortions in America.
I signed the partial-birth -- the ban on partial-birth abortion. It's a brutal practice. It's one way to help reduce abortions. My opponent voted against the ban.
I think there ought to be parental notification laws. He's against them.
I signed a bill called the Unborn Victims of Violence Act.
In other words, if you're a mom and you're pregnant and you get killed, the murderer gets tried for two cases, not just one. My opponent was against that.
These are reasonable ways to help promote a culture of life in America. I think it is a worthy goal in America to have every child protected by law and welcomed in life.
I also think we ought to continue to have good adoption law as an alternative to abortion.
And we need to promote maternity group homes, which my administration has done.
Culture of life is really important for a country to have if it's going to be a hospitable society.
GIBSON: Senator, do you want to follow up? Thirty seconds.
KERRY: Well, again, the president just said, categorically, my opponent is against this, my opponent is against that. You know, it's just not that simple. No, I'm not.
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.
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 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.
GIBSON: And 30 seconds, Mr. President.
KERRY: Well, it's pretty simple when they say: Are you for a ban on partial birth abortion? Yes or no?
And he was given a chance to vote, and he voted no. And that's just the way it is. That's a vote. It came right up. It's clear for everybody to see. And as I said: You can run but you can't hide the reality.
GIBSON: And the final question of the evening will be addressed to President Bush and it will come from Linda Grabel. Linda Grabel's over here.
Linda Grabel's over here.
BUSH: Put a head fake on us.
GIBSON: I got faked out myself.
BUSH: Hi, Linda.
GRABEL: President Bush, during the last four years, you have made thousands of decisions that have affected millions of lives. Please give three instances in which you came to realize you had made a wrong decision, and what you did to correct it. Thank you.
BUSH: I have made a lot of decisions, and some of them little, like appointments to boards you never heard of, and some of them big.
And in a war, there's a lot of -- there's a lot of tactical decisions that historians will look back and say: He shouldn't have done that. He shouldn't have made that decision. And I'll take responsibility for them. I'm human.
But on the big questions, about whether or not we should have gone into Afghanistan, the big question about whether we should have removed somebody in Iraq, I'll stand by those decisions, because I think they're right.
That's really what you're -- when they ask about the mistakes, that's what they're talking about. They're trying to say, Did you make a mistake going into Iraq? And the answer is, Absolutely not. It was the right decision.
The Duelfer report confirmed that decision today, because what Saddam Hussein was doing was trying to get rid of sanctions so he could reconstitute a weapons program. And the biggest threat facing America is terrorists with weapons of mass destruction.
We knew he hated us. We knew he'd been -- invaded other countries. We knew he tortured his own people.
On the tax cut, it's a big decision. I did the right decision. Our recession was one of the shallowest in modern history.
Now, you asked what mistakes. I made some mistakes in appointing people, but I'm not going to name them. I don't want to hurt their feelings on national TV.
BUSH: But history will look back, and I'm fully prepared to accept any mistakes that history judges to my administration, because the president makes the decisions, the president has to take the responsibility.
GIBSON: Senator Kerry, a minute and a half.
KERRY: I believe the president made a huge mistake, a catastrophic mistake, not to live up to his own standard, which was: build a true global coalition, give the inspectors time to finish their job and go through the U.N. process to its end and go to war as a last resort.
I ask each of you just to look into your hearts, look into your guts. Gut-check time. Was this really going to war as a last resort?
The president rushed our nation to war without a plan to win the peace. And simple things weren't done.
That's why Senator Lugar says: incompetent in the delivery of services. That's why Senator Hagel, Republican, says, you know: beyond pitiful, beyond embarrassing, in the zone of dangerous.
We didn't guard 850,000 tons of ammo. That ammo is now being used against our kids. Ten thousand out of 12,000 Humvees aren't armored. I visited some of those kids with no limbs today, because they didn't have the armor on those vehicles. They didn't have the right body armor.
I've met parents who've on the Internet gotten the armor to send their kids.
There is no bigger judgment for a president of the United states than how you take a nation to war. And you can't say, because Saddam might have done it 10 years from now, that's a reason; that's an excuse.
GIBSON: Mr. President?
BUSH: He complains about the fact our troops don't have adequate equipment, yet he voted against the $87 billion supplemental I sent to the Congress and then issued one of the most amazing quotes in political history: I actually did vote for the $87 billion before I voted against it.
Saddam Hussein was a risk to our country, ma'am. And he was a risk that -- and this is where we just have a difference of opinion.
The truth of that matter is, if you listen carefully, Saddam would still be in power if he were the president of the United States, And the world would be a lot better off.
GIBSON: And, Senator Kerry, 30 seconds.
KERRY: Not necessarily be in power, but here's what I'll say about the $87 billion.
I made a mistake in the way I talk about it. He made a mistake in invading Iraq. Which is a worse decision?
Now, I voted the way I voted because I saw that he had the policy wrong and I wanted accountability. I didn't want to give a slush fund to Halliburton. I also thought the wealthiest people in America ought to pay for it, ladies and gentlemen. He wants your kids to pay for it. I wanted us to pay for it, since we're at war. I don't think that's a bad decision.
GIBSON: That's going to conclude the questioning. We're going to go now to closing statements, two minutes from each candidate.
And the first closing statement goes to Senator Kerry. I believe that was the agreement.
KERRY: Do you want to go first?
BUSH: Either way.
KERRY: Thank you.
Charlie, thank you.
And thank you all.
KERRY: Thank you, all of you, for taking part.
Thanks for your questions tonight, very, very much.
Obviously the president and I both have very strong convictions. I respect him for that. But we have a very different view about how to make America stronger and safer. I will never cede the authority of our country or our security to any other nation. I'll never give a veto over American security to any other entity -- not a nation, not a country, not an institution.
But I know, as I think you do, that our country is strongest when we lead the world, when we lead strong alliances. And that's the way Eisenhower and Reagan and Kennedy and others did it.
We are not doing that today. We need to.
I have a plan that will help us go out and kill and find the terrorists.
And I will not stop in our efforts to hunt down and kill the terrorists.
But I'll also have a better plan of how we're going to deal with Iraq: training the Iraqi forces more rapidly, getting our allies back to the table with a fresh start, with new credibility, with a president whose judgment the rest of the world trusts.
In addition to that, I believe we have a crisis here at home, a crisis of the middle class that is increasingly squeezed, health-care costs going up.
I have a plan to provide health care to all Americans.
I have a plan to provide for our schools so we keep the standards but we help our teachers teach and elevate our schools by funding No Child Left Behind.
I have a plan to protect the environment so that we leave this place in better shape to our children than we were handed it by our parents. That's the test.
I believe America's best days are ahead of us. I'm an optimist, but we have to make the right choices, to be fiscally responsible and to create the new jobs of the future. We can do this.
And I ask you for the privilege of leading our nation to be stronger at home and respected again in the world.
And a closing statement from President Bush.
BUSH: Charlie, thanks.
Thank you all very much. It's been enjoyable.
The great contest for the presidency is about the future, who can lead, who can get things done.
We've been through a lot together as a country -- been through a recession, corporate scandals, war.
And yet think about where we are: Added 1.9 million new jobs over the past 13 months. The farm income in America is high. Small businesses are flourishing. Homeownership rate is at an all-time high in America.
We're on the move.
Tonight I had a chance to discuss with you what to do to keep this economy going: keep the taxes low, don't increase the scope of the federal government, keep regulations down, legal reform, a health- care policy that does not empower the federal government but empowers individuals, and an energy plan that will help us become less dependent on foreign sources of energy.
And abroad, we're at war. And it requires a president who is steadfast and strong and determined. I vowed to the American people after that fateful day of September the 11th that we would not rest nor tire until we're safe.
The 9/11 Commission put out a report that said America is safer but not yet safe. There is more work to be done.
We'll stay on the hunt on Al Qaida. We'll deny sanctuary to these terrorists. We'll make sure they do not end up with weapons of mass destruction. It's the great nexus. The great threat to our country is that these haters end up with weapons of mass destruction.
But our long-term security depends on our deep faith in liberty. And we'll continue to promote freedom around the world.
Freedom is on the march. Tomorrow, Afghanistan will be voting for a president. In Iraq, we'll be having free elections, and a free society will make this world more peaceful.
GIBSON: Mr. President, Senator Kerry, that concludes tonight's debate.
I want to give you a reminder that the third and final debate on issues of domestic policy will be held next Wednesday, October 13th, at Arizona State University in Tempe, Arizona, hosted by Bob Schieffer of CBS News.
I want to thank President Bush and Senator Kerry for tonight. I want to thank these citizens of the St. Louis area who asked the questions, who gave so willingly of their time, and who took their responsibility very seriously.
Thank you also to everyone at Washington...
I want to thank everyone at Washington University in St. Louis for being so such gracious hosts. I'm Charles Gibson from ABC News. From St. Louis, good night.