THIRTY YEARS ago, barely a tenth of the people in developing countries used some kind of birth control. Today more than half do -- in large part because of America's pioneering efforts to help people choose the size of their families. That choice is important not only for individuals but for countries, some of which are so devastated and deforested they cannot feed and house their own.
Seven years ago, at the 1984 World Population Conference in Mexico City, the United States trashed its position as a wise world leader on this issue. It announced it would try to end financial aid to any agency that so much as mentioned abortion. The Agency for International Development, aided and abetted by Congress, then withdrew financing from the U.N. Fund for Population Activities and the International Planned Parenthood Federation.
That Congress can put such strictures on its financing is supported by a recent Supreme Court decision. Whether it should, however, is a matter of conscience -- and evidence is mounting that congressional consciences are troubled.