June 6, 1974
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Harold Froelich (R., Wis.) has succeeded in attaching an anti-abortion amendment to the mammoth Community Services Act of 1974 (HR 14449). This act, passed by the House on May 29th, by a margin of 331 to 53, would resuscitate all of the old OEO anti-poverty programs, including Family Planning and Legal Services, by transferring them to a new agency to be created in HEW and to be called the Community Action Administration.
The text of Rep. Froelich’s amendment, which was adopted by a vote of 290 to 91, is as follows:
“No financial assistance shall be extended under this section for medical assistance and supplies in cases of abortion.”
The section referred to is Section 144, which provides that “the Director shall assure that family-planning services, including the dissemination of family-planning information and medical assistance and supplies are made available to all low-income individuals … who desire such information, assistance, or supplies. The Director shall require, in connection with any such financial assistance, that — (A) no individual will be provided with any information, medical supervision, or supplies which that individual indicates are inconsistent with his or her moral, philosophical, or religious beliefs; and (B) no individual will be provided with any medical supervision or supplies unless he or she has voluntarily requested such medical supervision or supplies. The use of family-planning services assistance under this title shall not be a prerequisite to the receipts of services from or participation in any other programs under this act.”
Right-to-life sources point out that although this section seems to have adequate safeguards, it is in fact identical to the language of the original Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 by which OEO was created — language which did nothing to prevent a series of abuses and coercive policies such as the sterilization case in South Carolina.
Rep. Froelich’s amendment may leave untouched other sections of the Community Services Act through which abortion and abortifacient means of so-called contraception might be promoted. These include: (1) the continuation of legal services, Section 122, as they existed under OEO without any of the restrictions written into the new Legal Services Corporation bill; (2) the program of “neighborhood centers” (Sec. 124) which would include “health” services as well as “counseling” and “referral”; (3) the “Youth Recreation and Sports Program” (Sect. 127) which also provides for “health” services; (4) loans to low- income, rural families (Sect. 212), which can only be granted “where, in the judgment of the Director, such loans have a reasonable possibility of effecting a permanent increase in the income of such families” — e.g., if they stop having children; (5) assistance for migrant workers, (Sect. 221 ff.), including “health services”; and (6) the provision for “human services policy research” (Section 1001 ff) through which HEW could fund research projects on population control, contraception, abortion, or anything else, given the all-inclusiveness of the language.
This pessimistic estimate of the bill’s potential is not shared by the U.S. Catholic Conference. According to Mrs. James Robinson, a spokesman for the Bishops’ Government Liaison Office, all Federal monies which go for family planning services are controlled by the Dingell amendment, which was attached to the Tydings act in 1970. It provides that Federal monies cannot be used for programs where abortion is a “means of family planning.” According to Robinson, the Appropriations Committee has always interpreted the Dingell amendment as applying across the board rather than just to the Tydings act.
Robinson also dismisses fears arising from the Legal Services component of HR 14449, since this is merely a “back-up” which will be dropped as soon as the independent Legal Services Corporation is signed into law. Robinson sees no likelihood of a presidential veto of the latter.
Bishop James S. Rausch, General Secretary of the U.S. Catholic Conference and of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, evidently agrees with Robinson in seeing no anti-life danger in HR 14449, even without the Froelich amendment. For, on May 17th, Rausch sent a letter to all members of Congress urging them to support the unammended measure. The text of that letter is as follows:
“It is my understanding that HR 14449, the Community Services Act of 1974, will soon be voted on. HR 14449 would extend existing OEO programs for three years, but would transfer them to a new Community Action Administration within the Department of HEW. While we had hoped for the continued existence of the Office of Economic Opportunity, as a separate agency, we support HR 14449 as minimally acceptable to maintain a focus on the needs of the poor and the disadvantaged. I urge you to vote for HR 14449.”
Other Capitol Hill observers, however, consider the Bishop’s endorsement to have been most ill-advised. They cite a number of possibilities such as the following: a new legal offensive by anti-life groups to restrict the application of the Dingell amendment (this offensive was discussed at a meeting of the National Family Planning Forum, held at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington in April); the proven ineffectiveness of the Dingell amendment in the past, including the fact that Federal monies have massively supported the Planned Parenthood Federation, which counsels abortion precisely “as a means of family planning,” albeit an inferior means; the near certainty of a Nixon veto against the Legal Services Corporation bill unless the Senate makes substantial changes in the conference report.
Moreover, Robinson’s point of view was not shared by conservative Congressmen Ashbrook, Huber, and Landgrebe, who issued a minority report on HR 14449, saying that the measure would provide “a legal-services program transferring the present legal-services activities to HEW without reform” and “a family-planning program with language which will allow continued use of Federal funds for abortion and sterilization.”
If these observers prove to be correct, right-to-life forces will be deeply and gratefully in the debt of the fast-acting Rep. Froelich.