MEMPHIS, NOV. 2 -- Republican vice presidential candidate Dan Quayle said today that many rape victims would not need to choose whether to have an abortion because they could undergo dilation and curettage, a medical procedure that scrapes the uterus. He said he believes that procedure is not the same as an abortion.

"I understand that immediately after a rape that is reported, that a woman normally, in fact, can go to the hospital and have a D and C," Quayle said. "At that time that is before the forming of a life. That is not anything to do with abortion."

Dilation and curettage is a procedure used in abortion; it does not prevent conception.

"Yes, it's a type of abortion, obviously," said Dr. Joseph Collea, an obstetrician at Georgetown University Hospital Medical Center. "I suppose it's semantics and you can call it anything you want, but it ends up the same. Fertilization has already occurred, and you are trying to disturb the lining of the uterus so the fertilized egg can't implant itself."

Quayle, who said he opposes abortion except when the mother's life is in jeopardy, made the statement when reporters here asked whether the Maryland woman raped by Massachusetts murderer William Horton Jr. should have given birth to Horton's child if she had become pregnant. He said Horton's 1987 rape while on a prison furlough program approved by Michael S. Dukakis would not have justified an abortion.

Today marked the third time recently that Quayle has said he thinks rape victims should not get abortions if they become pregnant.

In the past two weeks, Quayle has stuck by his "pro-life" position under tough questioning. He told a young reporter for the "Children's Express" television show that he would not recommend she get an abortion if she were the victim of incest. And at a Missouri high school, Quayle said that if his wife, Marilyn, were raped and became pregnant, he would advise her to carry the child.

Staff writer Philip J. Hilts contributed to this report.