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Anti-Abortion Budget Measures Rebuffed : Assembly: Nasty exchanges mark debate on proposed GOP amendments. Only one cutting funds for illegal immigrants passes.

June 21, 1995|DAN MORAIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

SACRAMENTO — Sending the lower house into a new tizzy, Assembly Republicans on Tuesday proposed several amendments aimed at cutting government-funded abortions, only to have Democrats and a handful of abortion rights Republicans kill all but one of them.

Variously denouncing abortions as barbaric, outrageous, and horrendous acts that should not be funded by tax money, Republicans pressed for floor votes on the abortion measures as part of their effort to shape the annual state budget debate.

The often-emotional discussion included references to religion, morality and truths higher than the Constitution. But despite the rhetoric, Assembly Republican Leader Jim Brulte, when asked whether Republicans would end up voting for the state budget even if all the anti-abortion measures end up failing, replied: "Sure."

"Republicans understand at the outset we don't get everything we want in a budget," Brulte said, adding that abortion funding is only one component of a complex $56-billion spending plan for the new fiscal year starting July 1.

With the constitutional deadline for approving the 1995-1996 budget 10 days away, Democrats said Tuesday's lengthy abortion debate only served to delay work being done by a Senate-Assembly conference committee to come up with a budget compromise. Democrats also note that it proved once more that the Assembly continues to support abortion rights.

"The Republican Caucus wants to showboat," said Assemblywoman Sheila J. Kuehl (D-Santa Monica), who led the effort to kill the amendments.

By the end of the two-hour debate, a fourth of the Assembly's 79 members had given floor speeches. Many of them rose two or more times to speak on various facets of the issue, ranging from family planning money to state-paid abortions for illegal immigrants.

"I'm so glad this house is being televised," said Steve Baldwin (R-El Cajon), author of one of the failed anti-abortion measures. "I want the taxpayers of the state to know how their tax dollars are being used."

For the most part, the debate took on a somewhat lofty tone--until the end when lawmakers began accusing one another of having tantrums and acting like children. The day's low point came when Assemblywoman Paula L. Boland (R-Granada Hills) accused Assemblyman John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) of giving her "an obscene gesture." Vasconcellos declined to discuss Boland's charge, shrugging, "I'm not upset."

Assemblyman George House (R-Hughson) later issued a press release calling on the Assembly to censure Vasconcellos. It was House who, a few weeks ago, referred to Vasconcellos' recent cancer surgery, saying he wished doctors had "gotten the malignancy out of his heart." House later apologized.

The anti-abortion measures came in the form of amendments to the Assembly version of the budget, many of which were defeated earlier in committee votes.

Once the conference committee completes its work, Assembly and Senate leaders will meet with Gov. Pete Wilson in an attempt to resolve remaining differences, and then send the budget to both houses of the Legislature for approval.

Speaker Doris Allen (R-Cypress) agreed to let the abortion debate take place Tuesday to placate GOP hard-liners, and she voted with Republicans to stop most tax-funded abortions.

"There is a feeling on the Republican side of the aisle that they're not going to be able to put their input in on abortion," Allen said. "This is their opportunity to publicly say, 'This is what we are. This is what we want.' "

Republicans also are intent on introducing more budget amendments Thursday to cut funding for mass transit and air pollution control, as well as various commissions and regulatory boards. Additionally, GOP lawmakers plan to propose budget amendments to cut money for prison inmates, Medi-Cal recipients, and child care.

Democrats have several budget amendments of their own, including some to increase funding for education, welfare, and protection to battered women. Their amendments also take swipes at Wilson and Republicans by deleting positions in the executive branch, and cutting state-paid travel budgets.

The amount spent on Medi-Cal abortions for indigent women is $42 million a year. But Assemblyman Bruce Thompson (R-Fallbrook) proposed to cut that to $3 million, limiting it to poor women who become pregnant by rape or incest, or whose lives are threatened by pregnancy. That measure failed 43-32, with six Republicans voting against it, and two others not voting.

The one measure that passed, 39-37, seeks to cut state funding of abortion for illegal immigrant women, unless they become pregnant as a result of rape or incest, or their lives are endangered by pregnancy. The measure was introduced by Assemblyman Gary G. Miller (R-West Covina).

Among the other measures:

* Assemblyman Jim Morrissey (R-Santa Ana) proposed a mandatory 24-hour waiting period before a woman receives a state-funded abortion. It failed 41-33.

* Assemblyman Baldwin proposed prohibiting women from receiving more than one Medi-Cal abortion a year. His measure failed 39-34.

* Assemblyman House proposed cutting state funds to clinics that perform abortions. It failed 43-31.

Speaker Allen, meanwhile, withstood another round of attacks and insults. In Orange County, the GOP Central Committee voted 49-8 on Monday night to condemn Allen and recommend her recall. In San Bernardino County, the Republican Central Committee declared that "the current Assembly Speaker has prostituted the entire Republican Party as well as all the Republican legislators within the state."

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