Curbing the Population Explosion Headed for the Year 2000

Regarding the editorial "Clinton and Population Policy," April 9: Thank you for bringing the need for increased international family planning assistance to your readers' attention.

The urgency with which we must act to defuse the world's population explosion cannot be overstated. The actions we take during this decade will make the differences between whether the earth's population stabilizes at 10 billion during the next century (nearly double its current level) or rises to more than 15 billion (triple its current level). World population can be stabilized if family planning is available universally by the year 2000. Members of the Congressional Population Coalition are advocating

that the United States contribute to a United Nations-sponsored plan to reach that goal, which would entail spending $300 million more than the US is spending this year.

Several of us in Congress are also drafting a comprehensive population stabilization and reproductive health bill that would bring about the widespread availability of family planning services and child-mortality programs, as well as better educational, economic, social, and political opportunities for women.

This legislation will also enable the US to again contribute to the UN Population Fund (UNFPA) and the International Planned Parenthood Federation, both of which are denied funding under the two previous administrations' policies. We hope to make population assistance a central purpose of US foreign policy and help restore the US to its former role as a world leader in this area. Rep. Anthony C. Beilenson, Washington Co-chair of the Congressional Coalition on Population and Development

The Monitor has always provided responsible coverage on the issue of population growth and its relationship to the environment and development. However, I am concerned about the title of the Opinion page article "US Urged to Help Population Control," March 25.

While the term "population control" has been used in the past to describe efforts to stabilize world population growth, it implies that population growth alone is responsible for environmental degradation, and that the rights of individuals may be ignored in order to slow population growth. Population growth cannot be isolated from factors such as poverty, lack of education and health care, unjust land tenure policies, and over consumption of natural resources in the United States and other industrialize d countries.

More important, international population and family planning assistance is about giving women control, not taking it from them. A woman in the developing world is the center of her environment. She is the primary natural resource manager and food provider. She knows the needs of her family and her community. In order to effectively manage her life and her environment, every woman must have the right and the means to make informed decisions regarding the number and spacing of her children.

Funding for voluntary family planning programs must be increased. Congress should appropriate $725 million for international population assistance in the coming fiscal year. Programs to increase women's access to comprehensive health care, education, and economic opportunities should also be a priority of US foreign assistance. We must bring women into the development process as full partners. Lisanne Nelson, Washington Population Specialist National Audubon Society

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