In their zeal to deny critical funds to international family planning organizations, Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., and his allies in Congress would have the American people believe that U.S. dollars are spent to perform and promote abortions abroad. Nothing could be further from the truth: Federal law bans using U.S. funds for abortions. International family planning programs use the U.S. aid they receive to provide contraception and related health services that prevent unintended pregnancies and reduce the need for abortion.

Yet, once again, the reproductive health of millions of women and families around the world is being sacrificed in the name of extremist politics. Legislators who oppose family planning and the right to choose will stop at nothing, including holding important foreign policy goals and federal budgets hostage, to impose their narrow agenda.This bill that passed the House and Senate would prevent foreign nongovernmental organizations from using their own money to communicate with their own governments. Such censorship flies in the face of deeply held American values of free speech and democracy. This "global gag rule" would export a policy that is unacceptable, indeed unconstitutional, in our own country. It would also severely undermine established, successful family planning programs that have already significantly improved the lives and welfare of millions.

I am appalled that our elected officials continue to play political games with the health of the world's women and their families. I applaud President Clinton for his promise to veto this misguided legislation.

Debbie Cohen

Salt Lake City