Candidate: President Bush

Images: A woman looking upset; a medical clinic; dark, flashing images of X-rays set against ominous music.

Time: 30 seconds

Audio: For women's health, it's now an emergency. Our hospitals, closing maternity wards. OBGYNs, forced out. Three-month waits for mammograms. The reason: frivolous lawsuits from out-of-control personal injury trial lawyers.

And John Kerry and the liberals in Congress stand with those trial lawyers. They've voted to block medical lawsuit reform 10 times. And that's why our good doctors are leaving.

Analysis: It is no accident that this ad was released hours before the vice presidential debate involving a multimillionaire former trial lawyer, John Edwards.

The ad depicts a widely reported medical malpractice crisis although the number of U.S. physicians has been growing-but in some cases overstates the role of lawsuits. The "three-month waits for mammograms," occurring in Florida and California, are caused not just by litigation but also by growing demand among women older than 40 and a drop in doctors willing to read them because of low Medicare reimbursement, says a federal advisory group.

Kerry and many Senate Democrats, who receive substantial donations from trial lawyers, have repeatedly voted against Republican proposals to limit malpractice awards. In 2002, Kerry opposed a GOP amendment that would have limited punitive damages to twice the amount in compensatory damages and cap attorneys' fees at 33 percent of the first $150,000 of an award. Democrats say this would make it harder for patients to hold doctors and hospitals accountable for mistakes.

The Kerry camp cites a Congressional Budget Office finding this year that limiting noneconomic damages and banning all punitive damages would lower health costs only by 0.4 to 0.5 percent.

Kerry, who blames women's health problems in part on the rising number of uninsured under Bush, co-sponsored a bill to extend Medicare coverage for mammograms to women in their mid-thirties. But his running mate has made the ticket a target for such attacks.

-- Howard Kurtz

Video of this ad can be found at