A General Accounting Office investigation of family planning programs found "no evidence" that federal funds had been "used to pay for abortions or to advise clients to have abortions," according to a draft report.
The report was requested a year ago by two senators who have criticized the existing federal family planning effort. Opponents of abortion frequently have charged that government family planning dollars are being misused.
A press aide to Orrin G. Hatch (R-Utah), one of the senators who requested the study, said that the draft "does not exonerate family planning. It also doesn't indicate they are out perpetrating fraud . . . . There's a tough political decision to be made."
While GAO found "no indications that any women were advised or encouraged to have abortions," the draft report notes that some recipients of the federal money "may not be adhering to federal restrictions on abortion-related and lobbying activities."
However, the GAO investigators suggest that in these "questionable" instances the Department of Health and Human Services and Congress generally are to blame for failing to provide "clearer guidance" on spending restrictions.
Since the federal family planning program -- "Title X of the Public Health Service Act" -- was enacted in 1970, more than $1 billion has been spent. The GAO draft noted that HHS policy allows organizations with family planning clinics to use non-federal funds for separate abortion operations, so "the public can get the impression that federal funds are being improperly used for abortion activities."
Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), a strong proponent of the program, said yesterday that the draft report "confirms that the family planning assistance programs are doing their jobs and doing them well. Since the Reagan administration took office, the clinics and the hospitals that provide services under this program have been under the closest and most hostile scrutiny and yet no one can point to any serious misconduct."
In response to a Waxman accusation that there is an "organized war on family planning," press spokesmen for Hatch and Sen. Jere-miah Denton (R-Ala.) defended their responsibilities to oversee program expenditures. Hatch heads the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee, while Denton, author of the so-called teen-age "chastity bill," chairs a subcommittee.
A GAO official emphasized that the report, which surveyed 14 clinics, is "not final." Spokesmen for the two senators said they have not completed a review of the contents.