The House yesterday voted a ban on use of federal funds to perform abortions, strengthening a restriction passed a year ago which said federal money could not be used to perform abortions "except where the life of the mother would be endangered if the fetus were carried to term."
By a 201 to 155 vote, the House adopted an amendment by Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R.III) which said none of the funds in the appropriations bill for the departments of Labor and Health, Education and Welfare and their programs could be used to perform or promote abortions.
Before passing the $61.3 billion appropriations bill by voice vote, the House also voted to prohibit using HEW funds to impose racial or sexual quotas in hiring, promotion or school admission policies. Whether this would take HEW out of the "affirmative action" business remained unclear last night.
Though the ban on abortions was strengthened, pro-abortion forces said they were please by the action, feeling that it makes the amendment more vulnerable to a court ruling.
The Hyde amendment, passed last year, has never been enforced; it was stopped by an injunction in a U. S. District Court in New York on the day it was passed.
Through Medicaid - medical aid to the poor - the federal government has been paying for about one-third of all abortions performed in the country, approximately 300,000 at a cost of about $50 million a year.
Medicaid funds are also used to pay for services provided when pregnancies are carried to term, from prenatal care to birth, and the U. S. Supreme Court is expected to decide by the end of this month whether using federal funds to pay for some obstetric services but denying them to terminate pregnancies violates the equal protection clause of the Constitution.
The original Hyde amendment, banning use of federal money for abortions except where the life of the mother is endangered, was included in the bill when it was reported out by the Appropriations Committee this year.
Rep. Clifford R. Allen (D-Tenn) raised a point of order against it, and Rep. Richard Bolling (D-Mo), who was in the chair, sustained the point on grounds that the amendment imposed additional new duties on federal officials (deciding whether a mother's life is endangered) and therefore amounted to making policy in an appropriations bill, something House rules technically forbid.
Hyde was then forced to offer the amendment totally banning abortions to avoid the point of order.
"We've had moves to protect the snail darters, whales and dolphines, but we're not concerned about open season on an unborn child," Hyde argued.
In an emotional speech, Rep Gene Taylor (R-Mo.) said he and his wife had adopted a baby girl when she was 7 days old, and she is now married and has child of her own. "I'm happy no one killed my little girl," Taylor said.
But Rep. Yvonne B. Burke (D-Calif) called it the "forced child-bearing amendment."
She said it discriminated against low income women and black women and teenagers who become pregnant. These women produce particularly children "who don't have a chance to get adopted. They remain in adopted homes if they're lucky," Burrie said. One-third of all Medicaid abortions are performed on teenage girls, she told the House.
The House also by voice vote adopted an amendment which bans using HEW funds to require quotas or ratios in hiring or admission policies.
Originally the amendment as offered by Rep. Robert S. Walker (R-Pa), also banned using funds to impose any "goals or timetables" in enforcement of anti-discrimination laws in hiring or admission polices.
In a strongly worded statement, HEW Secretary Joseph A. Calfano Jr. said that "would bring to a halt much of the progress of the past 15 years in civil rights" and would amount to a "crude blunderbuss" that "maims" affirmative-action programs.
Califano added that the department does not use quotas anyway in implementing civil rights legislation and that he was opposed to them.
Rep. Elliott H. Levitas (D-Ga.) successfully struck out on a voice vote the words "goals and timetables" HEW does not insist on and which which he said the courts had repeatedly upheld as a means of implementing civil rights legislation.
Levitas said this deletion meant the Walker amendment had been neutralized.
Califano was out of town and not available for comment after the action, but sources at HEW said they were not sure the amendment had been totally defanged, and that it would take lawyers some time to study the wording to be sure.
Walker said his amendment was aimed at reverse discrimination, which penalizes by quota systems those who have done no wrong.
But Rep. Don Edwards (D-Calif.) said, "If there is so much reverse discrimination, there would not be so few minority and female doctors graduated from universities and medical schools."
If there were so much reverse discrimination, he said there would not be a blacklog of cases against federal contractors brought by minorities.
Rep. Louis Stokes (D-Ohio) admitted that opponents of the Walker amendment did not ask for a record vote because "we were afraid we'd lose. We felt we'd better take Levitas and let it go that."
Audrey Rowe Clom chairwoman of the National Woman's political Caucus, said, Congress finds it easy to vote against the rights of poor, powerless women" on abortion. And the "vote on the Walker amendment further underlines the callous indifference of the majority of Congress to the striving of minorities and women to acheive first-class citizenship."