IT IS TRUE that the opposition to abortion expressed by Health, Education and Welfare Secretary-designate Joseph Califano this week is consistent with the position taken by Jimmy Carter during the campaign. As Mr. Califano noted, he and the President-elect "come to it from different cultural and social and religious backgrounds, but we came to the same position. Abortion is wrong and federal funds should not be used . . . But if the courts say that federal funds shall be provided, I'll enforce the law justlike any other law."
The fact that each man reached this conclusion as a matter of personal conviction makes the conclusion itself no less troubling. For, personal or not, the effect of their common position would be to deny t the poor what is available to the rich and not-so-rich. To argue, as they do, that the emphasis should be on other medical services and or "pregnancy services" does not address this inequity.
As you may recall, Mr. Carter said in the campaign that he would abide by any Supreme Court rulings on the subject, and he would not seek to outlaw abortion through a constitutional amendment, though he would not oppose the efforts of others to do so. But asked if he would "approve the use of Medicaid funds, for example, for abortion," Mr. Carter relied then, "I would not approve of it at all. If the courts rule that it must be done, obviously I would gave to comply as President . . . But I don't favor the use of federal money for abortions." Likewise both he and Mr. Califano have stated their opposition to attempts to finance abortion through a national health insurance plan.
At the present time a legal challenge is being made to a congressional effort to ban the use of Mediciad funds for abortions. Possibly the challenge will succeed. And if it does, the Carter administration could simply end up following judicial guidance in permitting Medicaid and health insurance-financed abortions. We continue to believe, nonetheless, that a political way. And we believe that the Carter administration will be perpetrating a great inequity (and inviting a great political battle) if it should try to craft health insurance statutes that deny abortions to women who depend on federal funds.