The Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee has approved a four-year extension of the family-planning program, which has been the focus of attempts by abortion opponents, including President Reagan, to add tough new curbs on abortion counseling and referrals.
The committee, meeting in a rare evening session Thursday, approved the extension 11 to 5. The program has been operating for several years on emergency funding, and the current Department of Health and Human Services appropriations bill includes $146 million in emergency funding to keep the program going during this fiscal year.
The bill was sponsored by committee Chairman Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) and supported by all committee Democrats and by Republicans Lowell P. Weicker Jr. (Conn.) and Robert T. Stafford (Vt.).
It would authorize $155.5 million in fiscal 1988 for grants to support state, local and nonprofit family-planning clinics offering contraceptive, health and other services. For fiscal 1989, the authorization would be $163 million, for fiscal 1990, $171 million, and for fiscal 1991, $179.5 million.
The bill also would authorize small additional amounts for training grants and contracts; $10 million in 1988 and added amounts later for National Institutes of Health research on improving contraceptive devices, drugs and methods, and $10 million in 1988 and more later for community-based informational and educational programs on pregnancy, sexuality and parenthood.
Despite denials by program supporters, abortion foes, such as the National Right to Life Committee, said they fear that the research funds will be used to advance abortifacients and, in effect, be used to promote abortion. They also fear that any community-based information programs might include school-based clinics where abortion referrals would be made.
Approval of the Kennedy bill occurred after the committee defeated an amendment by Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah) to allow Utah to receive federal basic family-planning clinic support funds even if it imposes an elsewhere-unpermitted parental consent requirement.
The basic antiabortion provision of the 1970 law was retained by the Kennedy bill; it bars the use of federal grant or other funds under the Family Planning Act from being used to finance abortions.
The White House has proposed barring from the program a practice that is now required: that federally funded clinics advise women with an unintended pregnancy that keeping the baby, offering it for adoption and abortion are all options. The rule also requires the federally funded clinics to refer such a woman, at her request, to an outside clinic not receiving program funds.