The House-Senate impasse over abortion showed little sign of breaking yesterday, as Senate Appropriations Committee leaders sent a roundrobin letter to members of the Senate calling the lates House attempt at compromise too restrictive and "no compromise."
Sen. Warren G. Magnuson (D-Wash.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Labor and Health Education and Welfare, and the subcommittee's senior Republican, Edward W. Brooke (Mass.), said House language to allow federal payment under Medicaid for "treatment" of victims of rape and incest is "harsh and unworkable."
The two also said the current House proposal, which House leaders want the House to endorse next week and send back to the Senate, refuses to allow Medicaid abortions for low-income women even "where serious health conditions would deform or seriously handicap the woman or the fetus."
The abortion dispute, which already spans three months, has held up final passage of the $60.1 billion Labor HEW appropriations bill for this fiscal year, even though the old year expired a week ago. As a result, some agencies will not be able to pay employees for work performed in October.
The dispute involves federal funding, under the Medicaid program, of about 260,000 abortions annually for low-income women.
The House has voted to cut off federal funding except where the life of the woman would be endangered by continuation of the pregnancy. Medical experts have estimated that this provision would wipe out all but a few hundred - or at most up to 1,500 - of the abortions previously paid for by Medicaid.
The Senate has voted to allow federal financing of abortions not only to save the life of the woman but wherever a doctor considers it "medically necessary" for whatever reason - a phrase abortion opponents consider so broad as to allow abortions for any psychological or physical reason.
The House is proposing to add to its rigid language a second provision that would permit federal funding of "prompt treatment" of the victims of rape or incest, provided the rape of incest is reported by the woman to a law enforcement agency and the treatment occurs a few days or weeks after the rape and pregnancy is not yet determined.
The addition of this language is what the House is to vote on next week. Magnuson and Brooke call it "harsh" because it would require a woman to report to police that she has been raped or has had sexual intercourse with a relative before she evens knows if she is pregnant in order to qualify for treatment. It would forbid the government to pay for the abortion where the woman knows she is pregnant.
Magnuson and Brooke have made a counterproposal to allow federally funded abortions where there is danger to the life of the woman, in cases of rape or incest, in cases where continued pregnancy would result, in permanent injury to the woman's health, though short of life-endangering, or in the likelihood of a deformed child - for example, where the woman has caught German measles early in pregnancy.
Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), original House sponsor of the anti-abortion proposal, said the Senate language even as revised leaves too much discretion to doctors, with the possibility of abuse to get around the abortion ban. Hydea also he opposes adding even the new House language to allow "treatment" for rape or incest.