Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., introduced another 'human life' bill...


WASHINGTON -- Sen. Jesse Helms, R-N.C., introduced another 'human life' bill late Monday, apparently signaling a breakdown in attempts to break his impasse with Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, over how best to fight abortion.

Helms, without fanfare, introduced his bill on the Senate floor. Like his previous bill, it defines human life as starting at conception and gives fetuses limited constitutional rights.


Helms' previous human bill sharply limited what lower federal courts could do in abortion cases but his new measure removes some of those limitations.

It also would prohibit use of federal funds for abortions except when the mother's life is endangered -- a prohibition that Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., has succeeded in attaching to appropriations since the late 1970s -- and prohibit federal insurance plans from being used for abortions.

Helms' bill quoted the 1969 American Convention on Human Rights, the 1959 United Nations' Declaration of Human Rights and the Nuremburg International Military Tribunal in affirming the rights of an unborn child.


Helms' move caught Hatch off guard. Hatch has worked vigorously in getting the support of the Catholic bishops and the National Right to Life Committee for his states rights constitutional amendment, which would empower Congress and the 50 states to restrict abortion.

Hatch has proposed a constitutional amendment that would empower Congres and the 50 states to regulate abortion. Helms has proposed a bill giving fetuses full constitutitional rights by defining human life as starting at conception.

Spokesmen for the Christian Action Council, which opposes the Hatch amendment and wants a near total ban on abortion, revealed at a news conference that talks between Helms and Hatch were underway.

A Hatch spokesman later confirmed the talks were underway, but said flatly, 'There's nothing in the works.'

Spokesmen for the council also said they have tried but failed to get President Reagan to lobby Congress for any anti-abortion legislation.

'It's clear that neither the president nor the White House has ever lobbied for any pro-life proposal,' Douglas Badger, the council's legislative director, said. 'We have requested a more active White House presence and to this date we have not gotten it.'

Spokesmen for the council urged Hatch to withdraw his amendment on grounds it cannot be enacted.


Curt Young, the council's executive director, said Hatch's amendment may be unable to get a simple majority in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Others said Hatch would be unable to get the two-thirds vote in the Senate necessary for a constitutional amendment.

'Every survey or head count of the 97th Congress has confirmed this,' council spokeswoman Barbara Burns said.

Badger said anti-abortion leaders in Congress are meeting to seek 'a legislative alternative which can get the support of both Senator Hatch and Senator Helms.'

'I'm very optimistic we'll have that shortly ... later this month,' Badger said.

He would not disclose details other than to say the compromise would be 'something that will not be a constitutional amendment but ... will require only a simple majority to pass.'

'Essentially what we're looking for is something that will pass in this Congress,' Badger said.

Helms told UPI Saturday he would not work for anything not having the unified support of the anti-abortion movement.

Several council spokesmen condemned the Hatch amendment for not being tough enough.

Betty O'Malley, of the Delaware Right-to-Life group, said the Hatch amendment 'does not uphold the obligation of government to protect the right to life.'

Theo Rossi Barron, an attorney for the group, said it 'would write into the Constitution the right of a state not to protect the unborn.'


They also questioned whether the Catholic bishops, who have endorsed Hatch's amendment, speak for the Catholic laiety.

'This movement is not controlled by the Catholic bishops ... or the New Right,' Ms. Barron said.

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