Top-level women presidential appointees and staff members from all the major agencies met yesterday to protest President Carter's opposition to federal funding for election abortion.
White House aide Midge Costanza called the 1 1/2-hour meeting at the Executive Office Building. She acted at the request of many of the 40 participants, who were said to be "outraged" at the President's position.
The ranks of senior women appointees included Carol T. Foreman, assistant secretary of agriculture for food and consumer affair: Barbara Babcock, assistant attorney general for the Civil Division: Patricia Wald, assistant attorney general for legislative affairs: Particia Derian, State Department coordinator for human rights and humanitarian affairs; Graciela OllOlivarez, director of the Community Services Adminstration: Tony Chayes, assistant secretary of the Air Force, and Eula Bingham, assistant secretary of the Occupational Safety and Health Adminstration.
At least three top-level women appointees from the Department of Health, Education and Welfare attended - Eileen Shanahan, assistant secretary for public affairs: Arabella Martinez, assistant secretary for human development, and Dr. Mary Berry, assistant secretary of education. Three men were present, including Joseph Onek, assistant director for health on the White House Domestic Council.
"What particularly incensed many of us," said one participant, who asked not to be named "was the presidents statement at the press conference Tuesday." The President, defending the states' denial of Medicaid money for abortions to those unable to offered them, said:
"As you know, there are many things in life that are not fair, that wealthy people can afford and poor people can't. But I don't believe that the federal government should take action to try to make these opportunities exactly equal, particularly when there is a moral factor involved."
There were repeated assertions at the meeting that the President had no right to impose a moral or religious belief on a group of people - in this instance, the poor.
HEW Secretary Joseph A. Califano Jr. was criticized for "exploiting Assistant Attorney General Wald put it, an administration proposal to pay people to adopt hard-to-place foster children and calling it, in part, an "alternative to abortion."
Califano said on Capitol Hill earlier this week that a new administration proposal to provide federal subsidies for low and middle income families who wished to adopt hard-to-place foster children could also be considered an alternative to abortion.
Califano described such a proposal on Capitol Hill this week.
The senior women officials will express their views to the President in a memo to be drawn up in behalf of the group. It will be circulated for the signature of each before it is transmitted to Carter.