The Most Rev. James A. Hickey, archbishop of Washington, urged members of the Maryland General Assembly today to steer away from the "survival of the fittest" mentality that he fears society may be returning to "in our economic, social and political life."

Hickey, speaking at his annual breakfast meeting with legislators, said the church will once again oppose Medicaid-funded abortions but added it would also support legislation that would require medical protection for all newborn infants, including the survivors of abortion attempts.

Hickey said the legislative agenda of the Maryland Catholic Conference again includes opposition to efforts to broaden the use of the death penalty.

"In the taking of human life, we ought to end our reliance on abortion and the death penalty and seek more humane responses to the problems of crime and unwanted pregnancies," Hickey said.

The church also supports the resolution calling for a mutual, verifiable nuclear freeze; supports the Maryland Job Training Partnership Act, and opposes legislation that would make it easier for couples to get a divorce. Hickey also asked legislators to resist the urge to cut back on public assistance and concluded with general criticism of Reaganomics, without specifically mentioning the national administration.

"This spreading attitude, which says the market will take care of every problem, ignores the virtues of charity, compassion and justice," Hickey said. "It poisons our economic and social life and eats away at the foundations of a moral society."