REP. JACK KEMP (R-N.Y.) was badly defeated last Thursday when the House Appropriations Committee turned down his misguided proposal to impose new restrictions on the use of federal family planning funds. Under current law, no federal money may be used for advocating or performing abortions. Mr. Kemp sought to extend this prohibition in two respects. He wanted to stop federally funded clinics from referring women elsewhere for abortions, and he sought to exclude from the federal program any organization that used its own money to provide abortion services in a separate location. A substitute offered by Rep. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.), which codified existing rules, was adopted in place of these revisions by the surprisingly decisive vote of 37-16.
Many of the members of this committee have for years supported the Hyde amendment, which bars the use of federal funds for abortion. But what the members seem to have been saying last week is that having gone that far, they would go no farther. Family planning groups and both the American Medical Association and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists opposed the Kemp amendment vigorously. Its adoption would have been a severe blow to a private agencies that use no federal funds in providing abortion services, and it would have been extremely disruptive to the operation of state and locally funded clinics that receive most of these funds. Physicians spoke out, concerned that new restrictions would limit their ability to discuss a range of medical choices with their patients.
The anti-abortion lobbyists behind Mr. Kemp's proposal vow to press their case on the House floor if possible and in the Senate, but the chances that they will succeed have been greatly diminished. When members such as Rep. Durbin and Rep. Silvio Conte (R-Mass.), both supporters of the Hyde amendment, speak out strongly against the Kemp plan, it should be clear, even to the most zealous, that there is a limit beyond which members will not be pushed on this issue.