The White House Conference on Families ended its three-day eastern regional meeting today by endorsing the right to abortion, the Equal Rights Amendment, nondiscrimination against homosexuals, national health insurance and a guaranteed annual income for poor families -- at a minimum of about $13,000 a year for a family of four.
The right of abortion was by far the most controversial as about 600 delegates voted today on over 60 proposals. The abortion-rights language won approval, 383 to 202. ERA, national health and minimum income also won by wide margins. But a combination declaration including nondiscrimination homosexuals, squeaked through, 292 to 291.
During floor debate in the voting sessions this morning, passions on abortion were high. "Not to have a child after it is conceived would be murder," declared Daniel Quigley, a Morristown, N.J., father of eight.
But Lisa Desposito of Brooklyn, a Catholic, declared that the issue is "not what you would do if faced with difficult and dangerous pregnancy yourself; it is allowing others to make a personal decision."
The Rev. Raymond Pontier of New Jersey, a Unitarian-Universalist minister, said those with religious objections to abortion should not attempt to force them upon others who have none. "For heaven's sake, keep your laws off our bodies and our minds," said Pontier. But a woman opposed to abortion leaped up and declared, "Once you play God, you are on the slippery slopes of Auschwitz."
More than 100 abortion opponents organized in a group called the Catholic Committee filed a minority report. Bishop J. Francis Stafford, auxiliary bishop of Baltimore, was among the signers.
On Friday, a group of 30 to 50 archconservatives led by Connie Marshner and Larry Pratt of Virginia marched angrily out of the conference to protest its liberal tone and impendng endorsement of abortion rights, ERA and increased federal spending on income support.
Today, a number of them were present in the conference hall and observers said some actually took their seats and participated in the voting.
Conservatives had made a special effort to elect delegates in Virginia, the District of Columbia and several other states, but they remained heavily outnumbered among the 671 delegates. It appeared that they would not have had the strength to force adoption of any of their positions today had they stayed, but they probably wouldhave been able to defeat the resolution opposing discriminations against homosexuals.
For the most part the recommendations of this first of three regional summer conferences, whose final recommendations will be put together in the fall, were a laundry list of liberalism. They focused largely on the income, job social service, and medical needs of middle- to low-income families. If put into effect, they would cost billions annually.
Delegate Janine Greer of Charleston, S.C., found it odd that "we say get the government off our backs but in our recommendations we ask for more government aid."
However, Joe Giordano of the American Jewish Committee, chairman of a big moderate-liberal coalition that dominated conference voting, said delegates aren't foolish enough to believe that the government will now go out and adopt all the recommendations. He explained:
"It is more a catalog of needs, a framework to get people thinking about needs and policies, a way of organizing energy so that both public and private institutions can begin thinking about how to respond to changing needs."
Many of the recommendations of the conference adopted by overwhelming margins involved ways to ease medical and income problems both of women who stay home and rear children orcare for others and of women who work outside the home.
Such recommendations included tax breaks and subsidies for adoption and day care, automatic tax cuts during inflationary times, and governmental action to protect against sex harassment on the job.
For Social Security, delegates endorsed: allowing husband and wife to split their credits regardless of who earned the income, improving spouses' and widows' benefit substantially, providing free Social Security credits for certain periods of childrearing and allowing older persons to earn much more than at present without losing benefits.
The conference also called for: special tax credits and income payments for taking care of an elderly person in the home, abolition of the income tax "marriage penalty," substantial upgrading of child care programs, and "flextime" -- variable working hours.
The idea of requiring analyses of all proposed new federal programs to determine their impact on the family was widely endorsed.
Only three of 60 resolutions were defeated.
One that lost narrowly proposed changes in child support and compliance laws and incentives; it was opposed by several speakers as wading into a legally uncertain area.
A second called for special tax incentives "to couples participating in public or private experiential programs exploring responsibilities of "marriage" both before and after the actual marriage; critics said it could mean public sudsidies for trial marriage.
The third defeated proposition called for balance presentation of all news issues by the media; it was defeated after the wording was attacked as impinging on the right of freedom of the press.