Rep. Chris Smith's Nov. 3 op-ed article "Getting Our Money's Worth from the U.N." illustrates his backward approach to U.S. foreign policy. True, U.N. peacekeeping forces could not stand up to determined military assaults in Bosnia and Rwanda, but it was precisely because we had not given them adequate support and clear objectives. Rep. Smith wants to make our foreign-aid operations weaker by charging that Congress should fund and support foreign aid less because family-planning programs somehow equal abortion.
However, every study shows that where family planning is available, abortions plummet. No U.N. agency (or U.S. agency either) funds abortion or supports it as a contraceptive method. The debate about abortion also has no relation to whether U.N. peacekeepers do a good job or to most of the other tasks the United Nations has taken on.
In his column, Rep. Smith called the choice between supporting or not supporting the United Nations a choice between good and evil. I hope that Mr. Smith will understand what the 185 U.N. member nations already do: Supporting the foreign assistance efforts of the United Nations is a positively good choice.
CAROLYN B. MALONEY
U.S. Representative (D-N.Y.)
In his op-ed column, Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) wrote that President Clinton vetoed a foreign policy bill "because he objected to a provision restricting U.S. support for foreign organizations that promote abortion around the world." Rep. Smith misled readers--the bill President Clinton vetoed would prevent women from receiving lifesaving family-planning services.
According to a 1996 report from one of the few U.N. organizations Mr. Smith supports--the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF)--almost 600,000 women die during pregnancy and childbirth each year; 75,000 die attempting to abort an unwanted pregnancy themselves or with the help of an untrained provider. These deaths render at least 1 million children motherless every year, and for every woman who dies, 30 more incur lifelong injuries.
Recently, UNICEF joined the World Health Organization and the U.N. Population Fund in calling on nations to commit themselves to reduce maternal deaths. At the top of their action list was ensuring access to family planning. If Rep. Smith truly cared about the life and health of women and children, he would do everything in his power to ensure that both groups have access to food, education and primary health care, especially family-planning services. With a single word, Rep. Smith could sit in Washington and save 1.6 million lives.
Planned Parenthood Federation of America Inc.