Censored birth control data to be restored for federal health book


WASHINGTON -- Basic birth control information that was removed from a popular health book on orders from the Bush administration will be mailed to federal workers who received the censored version.

The reversal comes a month after key members of Congress blasted the decision to remove the chapter from all copies of "Taking Care of Your Child," a best-selling health book sent free to 275,000 families nationwide in the Blue Cross-Blue Shield federal employee program.

"This chapter should have been included in the first place," says Rep. William L. Clay, D-Mo., chairman of the committee that oversees federal employee benefits.

Still, the Office of Personnel Management, which first ordered the chapter removed, remains skittish. OPM officials demanded that the chapter be mailed in specially marked envelopes to alert any sensitive government employee. What the envelope should say has been a matter of lively debate.

The six-page chapter says nothing explicit about sex, contains no illustrations, lists various birth-control methods and urges abstinence. It strongly encourages parents to talk with their teen-agers about sex.

The reversal delighted Rep. Patricia Schroeder, D-Colo., who earlier said she was shocked that basic contraception information would be regarded as offensive in an era of AIDS and soaring teen-age pregnancy.

"Break out the cigars," Ms. Schroeder told her staff when news came that the chapter was reborn.

"Taking Care of Your Child," written by three physicians, has sold nearly 1 million copies since it was first published in 1977. One author, Dr. Donald Vickery, said last month that the chapter "isn't meant to be proselytizing in any direction. It's meant to be useful information."

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