From the Secretary of State for International Development Sir, I was astonished by your front page reporting of the Tory conference ("Tories slam population control" and "Labour funds abortion pill tests", 8 October) and further articles on "Day of Six Billion" and leader column (15 October).
I am also saddened that a Catholic paper should be so obsessed with these questions and so little interested in improving living conditions for the one in four of the human family that live in abject poverty.
British policy on reproductive health is focused on helping the poor of the world to be able to have healthy families, to see fewer of their children die and fewer women die in childbirth. The Department for International Development (DFID) does not support China's one child policy. Nor does the UN. We are focused on ending this abuse of human rights in China and giving Chinese people access to contraception so that they can choose for themselves how many children they want.
Your "Labour funds abortion pill tests" article mentions the Contraceptive Development Network which is funded by the UK Medical Research Council and my department.
These studies on female contraception are examining the safety and efficacy of a number of compounds to prevent pregnancy. They are not concerned with the development of methods for induced abortion.
One of the reasons we fund such work is to ensure that more effective contraceptives are available to help reduce abortion. Around 75,000 women die each year from unsafe abortions.
I believe that our work is doing much more to reduce abortion than are those who use your columns to try to prevent poor women in developing countries having access to contraception. It is a lack of access to contraception that is the cause of most of the abortion that takes place in the world.
Yours faithfully, CLARE SHORT Department for International Development, Victoria Street, London.