House-Senate conferees yesterday decided not to prohibit government use of numerical hiring and admissions targets and other forms of "affirmative action" in discrimination cases. But they remained deadlocked on the highly emotional issue of government funding of abortion.
Conferees, however, agreed to bar Department of Health, Education and Welfare school pairing and clustering desegregation plans if they involve busin.
The abortion issue was by four the most controversial in the conference on the $60.1 billion funding billfor the Departments of Lbaor and HEW. The federal government has been funding about 250,000 to 300,000 abortions under the Medicaid program for low-income women at a cost of $45 to $50 million a year. The House voted 201 to 155 to ban all federal funding of abortions earlier this year, but the Senate, 56 to 39, added several major exemptions. The exemptions would allow abortion where the pregnancy endangers the life of the mother, where pregnancy is cased by rape or incest or in any other case in which a doctor considrs abortion "medically necessary."
Rep. Daniel Flood (D-Pa.), calling the Senate is "medically necessary" phrase a "loophole you could drive a truck through" because it could allow a doctor to perform an abortion for almost any reason, offered much more restrictive language as a compromise. It would allow federal funding of abortions only to save the life of the pregnant woman- language identical to a provision in last year's HEW funding bill, which had been held in abeyance by the courts. The administration favors this language.
Conferees led by chairman Warren G. Magnuson (D-Wash.) and Edward W. Brooke (R-Mass.), rejected the Flood suggestion, which was consponsored by Rep. Silvio Conte (R-Mass.), 9 to 5. They said it was still too restrictive.
A compromise by Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.), with substantially more exemptions than Flood's, was beaten as too permissive in several different 8-to-3 and 9-to-3 votes by the conferees. It would have allowed Medicaid abortions to save the life of the woman; where pregnancy resulted from rape or incest; where the pregnant girl was under 16: or where the pregnancy occurred "in association with potentially debilitating or life-shortening diseases" even if there wasn't an immediate threat to the woman's life.
The abortion negotiations resume next week.
The ban on HEW "affirmative action" proposals, which conferees dropped, had been inserted in the House but defeated earlier by the Senate, 63 to 31.
It forbade HEW from imposing any numerical requirements or ratios for hiring and admission at schools, colleges, hospitals or other institutions receiving HEW funds. Proponents argued HEW is forcing schools to set up quota systems in favor of blacks and minorities, thereby discriminating against whites and male applicants even if they are better qualified.
HEW said it didn't use absolute quotas and deadlines that must be met, but merely set targets to eradicate the effects of past discrimination, and didn't punish an institution failing to meet them if it could show it had made a good-faith effort.
The ban on use of busing even for school pairing and clustering form. It cuts off HEW plans to use pairing and clustering for school desegregation. In a typical pairing school, if there are two nearby schools, one white and one black, all the lower grades are put into one of them and all the higher into another, so a child only has one option on which school to go to. The one with his grade becomes his nearest school for that grade. Conferees said no if it involves busing.