The Department of Health Education and Welfare is looking into the possibilites of having the government pay people to boost children, in the event federal Medical funds for abortions are cut off.
As part of the "alternatives to abortion" projects, HEW Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr. said, "It is hoped that we could provide funds, without creating a significant bureaucracy, for minority and poor rural families who might want to adopt but can't afford to."
Next year's HEW appropriations include a request for an additional $35 million to upgrade existing programs to encourage alternative to abortion. Such programs include family planning services, sex education and contraceptive research, as well as efforts to find adoptive homes for needy children. Califano said a prime objective of HEW programs would be to reduce teenage pregnancy. In 1975, teenagers obtained one-third of a reported 854,853 legal abortions.
In addition, a Senate bill introduced by Alan Cranston (D-Calif.) would set up a national office of adoption information and services in HEW that would facilitate the adoption of hard-to-place children. The act would alter HEW funds to subsidize parents who adopt such children.
This is similar to existing foster programs, but the children would legally be adopted.
The hard-to-place category includes handicapped, emotionally disturbed and older children, as well as those with "racial and ethnic factors."
Califano said he has no exact details but hopes that the act, which is specifically aimed at the handicapped, could be expanded to care for unwanted poor children.
Medicaid currently pays for about one-third of all abortions annually at a cost of $50 million. Prochoice forces point out that if the same Medicaid women continued their pregnancies, welfare maternity costs and dependent children aid would sky-rocket. It costs an estimated $2,200 for maternity and pediatric care for each child during the first year, as opposed to $150 for an abortion.
Although President Carter and Califano have repeatedly stressed balancing the budget and cutting expenditures, they have also repeatedly stressed that they do not think federal funds should be spent on abortions.
Carter's overall determination to balance the budget took second place to his feeling on the matter. His press secretary, Jody Powell, said, "Everything has a budget component - but this decision is on a different plane."
Califano said, "I don't think this issue should be resolved on the basis of how much it costs" the government to care for additional children if Medicaid abortions are no longer available. He said he thought poor women who wanted abortions would turn to private clinics rather than resort to back-alley or self-induced abortions.
"The cost of abortion is now only $150 - or one week's work at minimum wage." He said he felt that private clinics would, to a great extent, absorb Medicaid abortions.
Many private clinics disagree, pointing out that Medicaid funds now enable them to offer abortions at reduced rates to needy women who are not indigent enough to qualify for Medicaid. Such services would have to be curtailed without Medicaid funds, they say, and it would be impossible for them to handle the bulk of the current Medicaid abortions.