Family planning federation urges Vatican to change policy
Associated Press, June 23, 2000

An international family planning group urged Pope John Paul II on Friday to ease the Roman Catholic church's opposition to birth control and abortion.

In a letter to the pontiff, the International Planned Parenthood Federation said the "opinions and actions of the Holy See...are seen by many as a kind of war...that contributes to the suffering of and deaths of millions of innocent people."

The IPPF, which has organizations in 150 countries, estimates that at least 300,000 women worldwide die from botched abortions.

The Holy See declined comment on the letter.

The federation, which is holding its annual meeting in Rome this year, urged the Vatican to acknowledge that condoms and sex education are the best weapons against abortion and AIDS.

"What the letter does is contributing to a growing body of criticism internationally of the Vatican's line," said Frances Kissling, president of the U.S.-based Catholics for a Free Choice.

Kissling is one of the leaders of a challenge to the Vatican's observer status at the United Nations, a post she says the Holy See uses to influence public policy and medical care to conform with Roman Catholic beliefs on family planning.

"The pope has lost the battle of hearts and minds," she said. "He's attempting to influence public policies. There is a shift from personal exhortation to crude political power."

The U.S. Catholic bishops conference has denounced Catholics for a Free Choice for its campaign to have the Holy See's observer status revoked.