From .......... GOVERNING AMERICA - An Insider's Report

By Joseph A. Califano, Jr.

65 ................. ABORTION

In a New York Times editorial on January 31 condemning my position on abortion, one element struck me as amusing:

I could understand the point of the editorial, but I hardly considered my experience before the Senate committees a free ride.

THE ABORTION issue would track me for most of my term as HEW Secretary.

I shortly discovered that, like Champion and Shanahan, few, if any, of my colleagues at HEW shared my view or the President's on abortion. Everyone in the top HEW management who expressed his opinion disagreed with mine. Only at the Christmas open house, when they streamed through my office to shake hands and have a picture taken, would HEW employees mostly the blacks or [Roman] Catholics whisper,

The same was true at the White House. A few staff members, such as Midge Costanza were publicly outspoken in favor of federal funding for abortion. Shanahan called me on July 15, 1977, and said she was going to a meeting at the White House, set up by Midge Costanza to organize the women in the administration to urge Carter to change his position on abortion. Shanahan said they might draft a petition asking to see Carter and setting forth their views.

I was incredulous that a White House staffer would organize such a meeting.

I had no question about Shanahan's loyalty, but was appalled at Costanza's judgment and seriously questioned her loyalty to Carter. Two of the other top appointees at HEW, Assistant Secretary for Human Development Services Arabella Martinez and Assistant Secretary for Education Mary Berry, also went to the meeting.

A story was in the Washington Post on the morning following the Friday afternoon meeting. Jody Powell called Shanahan at about 11:00 A.M.

Before Shanahan could respond, he answered,

"We have a right to express our views," Shanahan began.

Powell snapped,

66 .................... GOVERNING AMERICA

Powell was incensed.

Shanahan spoke firmly, in the tense, modulated tone her voice often assumed when all her energy was devoted to maintaining her composure:

"Not you, Eileen, I don't include you,'' Powell responded defensively to the former economic correspondent for the New York Times, "but these turkeys would not have jobs if the President hadn't given them one."

When Shanahan told me about this conversation later that afternoon, she was still trembling with indignation and rage. Fortunately, she found great satisfaction in her work and she and I had developed a relationship of sufficient respect that she decided not to resign.

I assumed Carter would be enraged when he heard about the women's meeting and he was, privately, and at the Cabinet meeting on Monday, July 18.

Carter then contrasted Commerce Secretary Juanita Kreps and HUD Secretary Pat Harris with the group of women who met with Midge Costanza. Kreps raised her hand to speak. The President recognized her. In her soft-spoken, polite, and respectful manner, she said:

What well-chosen words, I thought.

Carter seemed somewhat surprised, not at Kreps's position, but at the quiet firmness with which she expressed her view in front of the Cabinet and the ''barber shop" patrons (as I sometimes thought of the crew of aides and note-takers that sat against the wall in the Cabinet Room). From across the Cabinet table, Pat Harris promptly agreed with Kreps, but promised to keep her views within the official family. The President, so uncomfortable that he almost sounded defensive, indicated he was of course not talking about "Juanita and Pat," and reiterated his desire for "full debate," but he insisted on "complete loyalty" once an administration decision was made.


GOVERNING AMERICA- An Insider's Report

From the White House and the Cabinet

By Joseph A. Califano, Jr.

Published by Simon and Schuster 1981

ISBN 0-671-25428-6