The Senate has moved to head off the Reagan Administration's ill-considered attack on family planning programs, but the victory will be short-lived unless the House agrees that these vital programs must survive intact.
The need for legislative action arose when, at President Reagan's request, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed new regulations governing family planning programs. Those rules would deny federal money to any family planning clinic that provides counseling and referral for abortions--even to save a woman's life, a move that would seriously curtail efforts to help women avoid unplanned pregnancies. Family planning professionals also object strenuously to that provision because they would not be able to tell women their full range of options.
The Administration is now considering whether to issue its proposals as permanent rules. Physicians, women's organizations and others filed arguments against what Planned Parenthood called a dangerous and deceptive alteration of a successful federal health program.
Sen. Lowell P. Weicker (R-Conn.) successfully proposed an amendment that would prohibit the Administration from applying the new rules during the rest of this fiscal year. That effectively would bar any action through the 1988 elections. The issue, a contentious one with dozens of senators and representatives lined up on either side, comes before a House-Senate conference committee on health appropriations this week.