And now you have it, a regular "3-H" Club in the middle of the Senate. Mark Hatfield has joined the daring duo of anti-abortion hitmen, Jesse Helms and Orrin Hatch.
With as little fanfare as possible, the duo became a trio when Hatfield offered his own entry into the legislative field. There are now at least four live bills before the House and Senate, all devised to appease anti-abortionists.
The 3-H Club has emerged in part because another H, the Human Life Amendment, to ban all abortions, started to look like a loser. Anti-abortion forces just don't have the votes for a constitutional amendment, which requires two-thirds of both houses of Congress and three-fourths of the states.
This has split the anti-abortion movement and confused its friends in Congress, who, as an aide to Helms said, want "to put something on the table and get the thing off dead center." They are looking for something "winnable."
So what we now have are some home-grown and nurtured products which members of the 3-H Club have "put on the table." Here they are:
1-H by Jesse Helms (R-N.C.). Last year, Helms introduced a Human Life Bill to define life as beginning at conception. It would give fetuses full rights under the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, making all abortions and some forms of birth control illegal.
This year Helms introduced legislation to prohibit any federal agency from performing or paying for an abortion except when a woman's life is threatened. This bill would also deny federal funds for research related to abortions.
2-H by Orrin Hatch (R-Utah). Hatch has basically tried to take away the Supreme Court jurisdiction over abortion. Hatch One, or the pure Hatch amendment to the Constitution, says that either a state or the Congress has the right to pass a law governing abortion: whichever law is stricter would have to be obeyed.
Hatch Two, or the less pure Hatch idea (soon to be introduced), is an amendment that just leaves the abortion question completely up to the states.
3-H by Mark Hatfield (R-Ore.). The new club entry, Hatfield's bill, like Helms', would restrict all funds for abortions and abortion referrals and, as an added extra, deny funds to medical schools to give training in the techniques of abortion. Hatfield would also provide a way to speed up a new Supreme Court review of the abortion issue, under the theory that this court would reverse the Roe v. Wade decision.
So much for the entries. Some time soon, Congress will be forced to actually look over the exhibition and judge whether any is worthy of the club ribbon.
If, as is expected, Senate Majority Leader Howard Baker sets aside a time to deal with all the abortion bills together, we have a set-up for a Hatfield scenario. It is likely that the Hatch and Helms bills will be played off against each other. Then, if the opposition to both these bills remains as strong, the Senate may well turn to the Hatfield bill.
Hatfield's membership in this club provides a kind of out. In the current state of the Senate, he is positioned as a "moderate." His bill would restrict federal funds across the board, but is also seen as a way to keep fellow clubbie Helms from threatening to attach riders to every piece of legislation that comes down the pike. Unlike the Hatch amendment, it would not forbid the Supreme Court to rule on abortion; it would encourage a new ruling. The Hatfield bill may well be perceived as a compromise candidate by senators who are anxious to pick a "winner" and get rid of the whole abortion controversy.
But, in fact, the Hatfield bill only "moderates" between the extremist wings of the anti-abortion movement. The real argument in this country is not within a movement, but between the majority of Americans who continue to support abortion rights and the minority who continue to fight them.
There are ardent believers on both sides. Indeed, the latest Harris survey suggests that there are now more single-issue voters among the pro-abortion forces than the antis. Those who want to make abortion illegal will regard anything short of a total ban as too little. Those who want to keep abortion legal will regard any restriction as too much.
If congressmen believe that a politically safe compromise, or a permanent solution, can come out of this exclusive 3-H Club, they better trade in the blue ribbons for a stock of booby prizes.