Three time in the last few weeks Congress has taken a clear stand against imposing further limitations on government population planning programs. To the surprise of many, including chief sponsor Rep. Jack Kemp (R-N.Y.), the House Appropriations Committee refused last month to adopt an amendment that would have cut off funding to private family planning organizations that referred women elsewhere for abortions or used their own nonfederal money to provide that service in a separate location. No government funds can be used to perform or advocate abortions, but Mr. Kemp sought to impose new restrictions that would simply have put many established and effective organizations out of business. The Kemp amendment went no further than the House committee, and a few weeks later the Senate Labor and Human Resources Committee refused to adopt similar language in an authorization bill.
More recently, another battle has been fought on the continuing resolution. The Agency for International Development had announced plans to spend $40 million over a five-year period to set up "natural family planning" clinics in the developing world. Because these clinics would not have to provide information about pills, condoms, IUDs, sterilization and other procedures, they would, in fact, be denying women an opportunity to make an informed choice about methods of contraception. In the foreign aid program, as in our domestic ones, government funds are not used to perform or encourage abortions. But to limit information to one method of contraception when other, more effective methods are available is to do poor women a disservice and perhaps, inadvertently, to precipitate more abortions due to the failure of this one technique.
When this AID policy was debated during the consideration of the continuing resolution, a leader emerged to oppose it. He is Sen. Dennis DeConcini (D-Ariz.), a strong opponent of abortion himself but a man who clearly recognized the folly of this exclusive natural family planning approach. He wrote language into the bill mandating "that in order to reduce reliance on abortion in developing nations, (AID) funds shall be available only to voluntary family planning projects which offer, either directly or through referral to or information about, access to a broad range of family planning methods." That amendment allows the teaching of natural family planning, which is not only fair but particularly useful in cultures where other methods are unacceptable, but it requires that information must be provided about other methods as well. The DeConcini amendment is good legislation and deserves to pass.