House Speaker Thomas P. (Tip) O'Neill Jr. (D-Mass.) publicly cautioned President Carter yesterday not to propose registration of women for the military draft, warning that such a move would not make it through Congress.
"As I read the Congress," the speaker told reporters on Capitol Hill, "it wouldn't go. . . it would be anathema around here" and the White House would be "better off" dropping the idea.
On the hand, he said, he senses a "strong feeling" in Congress favoring registration of men.
The president is scheduled to make known next week if he wants some 16 million women between the ages of 18 and 26, as well as a roughly similar number of young men, to register for a possible draft.
If O'Neill's assessment is correct, it would mean there is virtually no chance to include females in draft registration, because Congress would have to provide authority.
In another development yesterday, women representing almost a score of women's rights, civil rights and anti-war groups from around the country gathered in Washington and said at a press conference that they were opposed to registration of either men or women and claimed that women had the political power to stop such a move.
"Women have always led antiwar movements, and we must speak out now against efforts to get us into another war," warned former member of Congress Bella Abzug, who was dropped last year as a White House adviser on women's issues and is now president of "Women USA."
The parade of speakers to the press conference podium demonstrated, according to Gloria Sterinem, editor of Ms magazine, that this wasn't an attempt to present a nice, neat statement the depth of feeling around the country against registration, the draft and military solutions to current problems.
Though Steinem and others found it ironic that women might be drafted before they even gained their "Constitutional rights" under an Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution that is still unadopted, the tone of the speakers was predominantly antiwar.
"What we need is Amtrak, not MX," said 74-year-old Maggie Kuhn, head of the "Grey Panthers," in a reference to the nation's rail systems and a new Pentagon missile system, respectively.
Hilda Mason, a D.C. city council-woman, said the trouble in the Persian Gulf was really "an economic struggle to preserve corporate wealth, rather than a threat to the people," and she wondered "what ever happened to that man who came to the White House with a bible in his hand."
Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo) did not attend the conference but submitted a statement saying that putting money for the draft instead into beefing up the National Guard and Reserves would send a much clearer signal to Moscow than "just compiling a list of American youth."
Schroeder said the president's decision to ask for registration was made by only a small group in the White house, was contrary to the advice of experts, and "not one top Selecteive Service or Defense Department official was brought into the decision."
While the United States unquestionably has key interests in the Persian Gulf, she said our allies' interests are greater. Yet, the United States is going ahead with registering youth "without asking any aid from the countries who stand to lose the most if oil shipments are interrupted -- Japan and Europe."
A number of women said the draft should be invoked only if the United States were "attacked."
"Look," Abzug said at the close, " the purpose of the press conference is to make clear we are concerned about what is happening in this country . . . the hysteria, the return to the Cold War, the use of the draft and registration for political purposes to help fan the flames."
Though she condemned the Soviet moves in Afghanistan, she said events there and in Iran are not justification for the president's shift from a policy of self-reliance in energy to what she called an "immoral new Cold War campaign that would sacrifice American lives to back up our dependence on foreign oil and the shamelessley profiterring American oil monopoly."