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THURSDAY, JUNE 19, 1975
Washington, D.C. The subcommittee met, pursuant to notice, at 10:15 a.m., Senator Birch Bayh (chairman of the subcommittee), presiding.
Present: Senators Bayh (presiding) and Burdick.
Also present: Mr. J. William Heckman, Jr., Chief Counsel and Marilyn R. Berning, assistant chief clerk to the Constitutional Amendments Subcommittee.
Senator Bayh. We will now convene our hearing. The first witness this morning is Ms. Marjory Mecklenburg, of the American Citizens Concerned for Life. If none of the witnesses have any serious objections, I would like to have all four witnesses come up and give their statements so we have a dialog back and forth about some of these alternatives that we are all searching for. We have the Reverend Dr. Robert Bluford, pastor of the Mechanicsville Presbyterian Church of Richmond, Va. Doctor, do you mind joining the panel?
Reverend BLUFORD. No, sir.
Senator BAYH. We have Mrs. John Lancione from Birthright, Dallas, Tex., and Ms. Mary T. Barry, Pride, Inc., Washington, D.C.
STATEMENTS OF A PANEL COMPOSED OF MS. MARY T. BARRY,
PRIDE, INC., WASHINGTON, D.C.; REV. DR. ROBERT BLUFORD, PASTOR, MECHANICSVILLE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH, RICHMOND, VA.; MS. MARJORY MECKLENBURG, AMERICAN CITIZENS CONCERNED FOR LIFE, MINNEAPOLIS, MINN.; AND MRS. JOHN LANCIONE, BIRTHRIGHT, DALLAS, TEX.
Ms. MECKLENBURG. Mr. Chairman, it is a pleasure to appear before you to offer this testimony today. We are appreciative of the cooperation and assistance we have had from you and your staff throughout this hearing process.
As I have noted, I am Marjory Mecklenburg, president, American Citizens Concerned for Life. I have a background of family life education and sex education and a background of home economics education.
I think it is these kinds of interests that bring me to you today as an involved citizen concerned with problems that American women face.
Senator, two nights ago I saw you on our television screen home in Minneapolis.
Senator Bayh. You were home and I was on television?
Senator Bayh. I wanted the record to be straight on that. Laughter.]
Ms. MECKLENBURG. You were conducting hearings on violence in the schools. Indeed, I think Americans are becoming increasingly concerned about the subject of violence. I read in my paper that child abuse is on the uprise. I read about violence in the streets.
We feel that abortion and violence, that they do go hand in hand because abortion is a violence, too, a violence done to unborn children to try to solve social problems. Abortion has become a public policy that is prompted and funded by our Government.
There have been other forms of violence prompted by our Government. What seems unusual to me is that in our country we have made real strides toward eliminating violence as a solution to social problems. However, in the area of meeting the needs of women, we have not been able to find any better answers to the real problems that do exist. We feel that women deserve more than the right to kill their unborn offspring. We also feel that children both born and unborn deserve the right to protection by our great Government.
Somehow we feel that our Government is capable of loftier public policy than the destruction of the unborn. It cannot be denied that one of the basic purposes of law is to protect rights, to enhance rights, to balance rights. Indeed, the right to life might be considered a basic right.
That is why we are having hearings on the possibility of a constitutional amendment-trying to find our way through the balancing of the rights of women and the child. However, it seems to us in ACCL that meeting the needs of one group of citizens should not stop or remove the basic rights from another group.
The Government should enhance, insure rights but not at the expense of women or men or children. All these rights need to be balanced.
Abortion is a violent and a negative solution to social problems. Most of the testimony that you have had before your committee has focussed on both ends of the spectrum. There has been focus on people who want a constitutional amendment and those who want the freedom of the woman to decide.
In fact, this debate has become very polarized. What we are here today to point out to you and to discuss with you is that forgotten sometimes in this debate is the pregnant woman who wants to continue her pregnancy. That woman, we believe, is almost a disadvantaged class.
What are the needs of the pregnant woman? Obviously this is a very complex question-her needs are complex and because of that this could be a very involved discussion.
I am going to very briefly hit on some of the things I think need to be done and try to point out some hopeful signs of what is being done.
We believe that women need counseling available-medical, legal, psychiatric and other kinds of counseling. Yet what are they getting
now, I believe in all too many cases is clergy consultation services, abortion counseling, with really little attempt to tell the woman what services are available for her if she wishes to continue her pregnancy.
There is far too much emphasis placed on well funded, well advertised abortion counseling and it is very difficult for the private sector to offer anything that matches it. Birthright, alternatives to abortion and other citizen groups have tried to fill the vacuum. But they are working often with meager funds, volunteer kind of staff and they have no financial remuneration for the job they are doing.
This is not the case when you are running an abortion counseling service. The fees can go to help pay for the running of that service.
We believe that there is an inequity here and that the Government is going to have to step in and try to help make sure that there really is a choice. Many times now women do not find themselves with an option because they don't know about the services that might be available to help them with their pregnancy if they wish to continue it.
Senator Bayh. Let me be absolutely certain I understand what you are saying. You are saying that there must be public funding for the abortion itself and the counseling that leads to abortion, but none relative to counseling for alternatives?
Ms. MECKLENBURG. Not nearly enough.
Senator Bayh. I wanted to make sure you were saying the latter instead of the former. I know of no prohibition that prohibits us from allocating the funding to provide assistance to the person who needs counseling.
It would seem to me that the program is structured sufficiently where if we have a will, there is a way of making certain there is a balance in the counseling process. I would agree with you. If we establish that this is what we wish, then we can build it into the public funding that this kind of counseling must be offered.
It is very easy to see and to paint abortion as a simple, quick solution-not to talk about the facts of fetal development, not to talk about possible complications, and not to talk about the myriads of kinds of services that might be necessary.
I am not saying this happens in every instance. I am saying it can happen and it does happen from women we have talked to who have been through that kind of experience and later perhaps lived to regret it.
But at this time they were not given the support they needed. No one was there to take their hand and say obviously the choice is yours. There are these facts you should know. Sometimes these facts are not pointed out.
There is no way that that is mandated presently. I guess we would like to see that at least women are making an informed consent. You say that perhaps if they are not even informed of the possibilities of what might happen to them or they are not informed of the facts of fetal development, they do not give informed consent,
Perhaps legislation could help in this area or regulations could help in this area.
Senator BAYH. Certainly, that should be a requirement. I hope by the time we are through, we will have a chance to have a give and take between some of you who are much closer to this as far as implementation than I.
We are told by some folks who we have talked to who run these services that indeed, there is counseling. I don't see how anybody could object to informed judgment being made and full information being given.
I think the question is how you acquire or provide that counseling and how it is truly balanced.
Ms. MECKLENBURG. We might have to do something about-just looking at the statistics of the women that come into an abo counseling service and then see what happens to them, what kind of percentage gets an abortion and what percentage decides to carry the pregnancy to term.
Senator Bayh. I am not sure that is proof.
Ms. MECKLENBURG. It is not proof but it could be some indication. Obviously one could interview women if they were willing to see what kind of counseling they have. I think there needs to be more investigation along this line. I think we need to look into it. I am not a social worker and I don't know how to structure that kind of study, but I think it is important that somebody who does look into the counseling situation as it presently exists vis-a-vis abortion counseling and supportive services counseling.
I guess that is all I want to ask for today in that area. In the area of education, we believe that we must eliminate the stigma of the unwed mother that is still present in parts of our country.
Senator Bayh. May I introduce a bill to accomplish that? That is the most difficult thing. You should not make light of it. It is the kind of thing that takes generations to accomplish but if you have any specific suggestions—we both know you can't introduce legislation. I am going to be the devil's advocate here. You should climinate the stigma but how do we do that?
Ms. MECKLENBURG. The public policies in the school, the way we treat the pregnant, unwed girl. Do we remove her from the scene? Is she given a choice as to whether she can remain in the school she was in? Does she have a choice for homebound education or to be removed to another community? All too often in some parts of our country, that woman is pushed out of school.
It seems to me that is the kind of policy of discrimination. I don't think that pregnancy, parenthood, should constitute grounds for denial of education. Perhaps the public policy in our country can do something to change that.
That would be--if we treat pregnant women, wed or unwed, with some dignity and respect their rights, then perhaps we are teaching by our great law that we do respect these women. The law respects them and so should other people. We believe that women should not only have a chance to continue their education in the academic subjects and perhaps get job training which they will need to support the child, if they choose to keep it, but that they probably need special skills.
Often young mothers are thrust into motherhood and the support of a child when they really are not able and don't have the background to support that child and meet the needs. We need to make sure those programs are available in our school systems and they do meet the needs of these young, pregnant mothers.
I think that the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare program on education for parenthood is a hopeful sign then in that direction.
We would like to see more emphasis placed on making women who keep their children the best mothers possible, giving them every opportunity to have the learning skills.
We also believe that malnourishment of pregnant women is a very serious problem in parts of our country. We think that the unborn child and the women have special needs during pregnancy. There is no question that a woman who is pregnant needs adequate nutritional benefits.
She probably needs a new wardrobe. Some of these things are simply overlooked. For instance, in the recent U.S. Supreme Court decision Burns v. Alcala, we have removed, or the court has removed, the right of that woman, pregnant woman, to receive funds for the benefit of her unborn child.
What this means is that in 38 States, the States that have not enacted special legislation, the preynant woman gets no kind of help or support, no recognition of the fact that she is pregnant and that she has special needs because of that pregnancy, needs above and beyond the normal woman of that same economic condition.
That decision did not say that there was a constitutional thing to provide AFDC for the unborn child. In fact, you might even read that decision to be inviting congressional legislation, national legislation.
There is no reason that the Congress could not act on this to make AFDC payments available for the pregnant woman because she is pregnant, make special kinds of allocations to her so that her nutritional needs and other needs can be met during that period.
We would ask that there be serious consideration of this. Some States have that kind of protection. Thirty-eight States do not. We also feel that day care facilities are an important alternative to abortion. There are many women who will choose to work or to continue their studies but do not wish to relinquish their child.
High quality day care facilities are essential for these women. We can point to the child and family services legislation of 1975 as a hopeful kind of move in that direction. We want to note that we are very pleased that, Senator Bayh, you have been very supportive of child care provisions and very interested in that kind of legislation.
We feel that other Congressmen should be concerned about the child and family services act and other kinds of acts that would allow high quality day care for women who choose to keep their children.
Senator Bayh. I think that that goal of high quality preschool care, what I like to call it because of the connotation, but I think that would be more than almost any other one thing.
If we have to put a ceramic of problems on the wall, that is a pretty big block. I take it you don't agree with the message of President Nixon when he vetoed the OEO bill about the socialistic tendencies of the day care?
Ms. MECKLENBURG. I think it is important that we give careful consideration to meeting the needs of the child and to not destroying the family and a system where the Government is raising the children. People do have concerns in this area and they are valid.