Carl Rowan's column "The Assault on Family Planning" {op-ed, Feb. 1} underscores the widespread misinterpretation of congressional intent behind the Title X family planning program. Congress never intended Title X to encourage or support abortion-related activities, and Congress has repeatedly affirmed its original intent, as recently as two months ago.

Mr. Rowan incorrectly asserts that the revised Title X regulations represent only the Reagan administration's view and not the view of Congress. Let's set the record straight. As recently as last December, Congress declined to block implementation of the regulations, when the conference on the Title X reauthorization dropped a Senate amendment that would have blocked them. Both houses adopted the conference report.

Congress intended family planning to assist women by explaining the options available in planning the size and timing of their families. Congress specifically excluded abortion as a method. As Rep. John Dingell, the sponsor of the 1970 amendment excluding abortion services from coverage, said:

"There is a fundamental difference between the prevention of conception and the destruction of developing human life. . . . With the 'prohibition of abortion' amendment -- Title X, section 1008 -- the committee members clearly intend that abortion is not to be encouraged or promoted in any way through this legislation. Programs which include abortion as a method of family planning are not eligible for funds allocated through this act."

Clinics wishing to provide counsel on abortion and to refer women to abortion clinics are free to do so under current interpretation of the Constitution. But they have no claim on federal funds for that purpose. President Reagan is right in issuing regulations that bring the family planning program back to the intent of Congress.


U.S. Senator (R-N.H.)