Three months after federal funds were cut off for all abortions except those necessary to save the life of the mother, anti-abortion forces are turning their attention to the 16 states that continue to provide free elective abortions.
Many of these states are already tangled in legislative and legal battles to cut such aid. And the fight will soon begin anew in others, as anti-abortion bills are introduced in the opening days of the 1978 legislative sessions.
In several key states, governors have been pitted against legislatures over the issue.
In Illinois and Massachusetts, governors have vetoed anti-abortion billss. Governors in New York, Michigan and Wisconsin have vowed to fight for state funding even though anti-abortion legislation has been introduced there. But the matter is far from settled.
In Illinois, the Senate is expected to vote this week to override Gov. James R. Thompson's veto of a bill to cut off money for all abortions except those to save the life of the mother. The House has already voted to override, and if the Senate votes as expected, funds would be cut off.
Pro-life forces say such a vote would be a major victory because Illinois ranks third in terms of Medicaid abortions performed under the old program. Illinois' 18,500 in fiscal 1976 put it third behind California (70,000) and New York (50,000).
In massachusetts, Gov. Michael S. Dukakis on Nov. 10 vetoed an anti-abortion amendment attached ot a $17 million supplementary pay raise for 35,000 state workers. Prolife legislators immediately vowed to override. Their chances are good in the House, but the Massachusetts' Senate is expected to uphold Dukakis' veto, assuring state funding until June.
State funding of abortions will continue in Oregon through January - approved by a one-veto margin by a legislative emergency board which acts on money requests when the state's lawmakers are not in regular session.
In Maryland, a joint legislative committee voted last week not to approve emergency regulations authorizing the state to pay for elective abortions. However, Dr. Neil Solomon, secretary of the state Department of Health and mental Hygiene, said he would continue to pay for elective abortions for the poor through the end of this fiscal year (June) despite the committee's actions.
Solomon argues that the legislature has voted for budgets authorizing payment for elective abortions and that he will continue that policy until the General Assembly votes otherwise. One state senator, Thomas Mike Miller Jr., predicted a budget with any abortion payment authorization would not pass at all in 1978.
The Virginia Board of Helth voted to discontinue paying for abortions but the cutoff was delayed until the end of this month in order to hold hearings. It is uncertain what action will then be taken.
Other states providing funds for abortions for the poor are Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Washington, West Virginia, Pennsylvania (with a "when necessary" proviso), and Idaho (with the consent of two physicians). In all but the District, anti-abortion forces feel they have at least a fighting chance of cutting off the money.
Activity to prohibit state abortion funding escalated last summer after the Supremen Court ruled that the Constitution did not require that public funds be spent for abortions. Following that ruling, a prohibition against federal spending for abortions contained in an earlier law went into effect.
The Senate and House are currently deadlocked over how strict the abortion funding restrictions should be in this year's federal statute.
Since four-fifths fo public funds for abortion were paid by the federal government in 1976, it is unlikely that states will continue to pay the full cost for very long.
In 1976, some 274,000 women received public assistance abortions for a total expenditure of $61 million, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, the research division of the Planned parenthood Federation of America. The institute concluded that if only one-third of the women wanting abortions give birth this year, "first year governmental costs for medical services, public assistance services and selected social welfare services would be about $200 million."
In an attempt to aid women who could have received federally funded abortions in the past, a Department of Health, Education and Welfare task force has recommended a program focusing on teenage pregnancy that cost $235 million. At present, one out of every 10 girls 15 to 19 years old become pregnant each year. The program would provide contraceptive, material and child care services, education and birth control research.
Advocates of abortion choice emphasize increased costs to taxpayers, and argue that cutting off abortion funding discriminates against the poor. They predict death and medical complications from illegal abortions and point to the one major incident already reported - the death of a Texas woman following an abortion in a Mexican bordertown "pharmacy."
However, anti-abortion groups across the country have stepped up their drives after gaining momentum from the actions of the SupremenCourt, Congress and President Carter, who favors cutting off public funds for abortions.
In both Illinois and Massachusetts, the pressure to override governors' vetoes have been especially intense in recent weeks.
Many religious denominations, from Mormons to fundamentalist Protestants, are leading anti-abortions crusades, but the Catholic Church is the most active - with bishops mandating pro-life sermons and articles in Catholic newsletters. The Bishops Committee for Pro-life Activity receives $95,000 from the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and an additional $200,000 annually from fund-raising publications. The National Committee for Human Life Amendment is funded by bishops and individual archdioceses for another $280,000 annually.
Much of the activity is conducted by individual parishes, with no national accounting of their efforts. One Springfield, III, parish recently placed pre-printed letters at the end of pews for parishioners to mail to legislators urging them to override Gov. Thompson's veto.
And in the District's St. Ann's Church as in amny parishes, sermons denouncing freedom of choice are more frequent now.
A pro-life Chicago hot line gives such plaudits as the "pastor of the week award to Rev. William Buckley of St. Catherine's parish in Glenview" for taking up a "second collection for pro-life on Sunday.
"We took up the colleciton for the Illoinois Right to Life Committee to meet expenses. Are we lobbying? No," said Father Buckley.
Father Charles Fiore. a Dominican priest who gave a pro-life sermon prior to the collection, said he "educates" the people with regard "to the facts about Human life - so that when they go into the polling place they have an informed vote."
In an unusual reprimand, John Cardinal Cody, archbishop of Chicago, last week asked Fiore to no longer preach while the pro-life collection is being looked into. "Taking such collections could possibly jeopardize our tax status," said an archdiocesan spokesman.
In Massachusetts, the aunt of state Sen. Jerry D'AMico fo Worcester was sitting in church when during the public announcements, she heard her nephew being denounced form the pulpit for his failure to vote for legislation to cut state funding. "I'm used to political pressure - but it's a different kind of pressure when God is involved," D-Amico said, "But I just feel the indigent should not be deprived of parity in medical service."
The latest pro-life action is the formation of a National Political Action Committee of the National Right to Life Committee. This group, considered the largest of any pro or anti-abortion organization, calims 11 million active supportess in 3,000 chapters. Judie Brown, a national officer, says the political action committee's major purpose is to "work toward defeating pro-choice candidates."
On another front, pro-lifers are working toward a Right to Life amendment. Nine states have thus far called for a constitutional convention to ben eelection abortions.
One tactic pro-life, plan to use in future legislative sessions is to tack anti-abortion amendments onto budgets so a veto would snarl up unrelated appropriations.
For example, Rep. Charles Doyle, sponsor of an anti-abortion bill vetoed by Dukakis, plans next year to attach an anti-abortion amdenment onto the medical assistance protion of the main budget - which provides $620 million for Medicaid.
Dukakis consistently says he will veto anti-abortion legislation and blasts such tactics that "hold others hostage." Buthe admits that attaching abortion measures to needy budgets does not make his job any easier.