AP 08/26 08:42 EDT V0628 1994.

The Associated Press

LONDON (AP) -- Abortion is an essential method for controlling population growth, a respected medical journal said Friday.

The editorial in The Lancet weekly challenged the Roman Catholic Church's anti-abortion position in advance of the U.N. Conference on Population and Development, which opens Sept. 5 in Cairo with representatives from 180 countries.

"Even with good reversible methods of contraception it is difficult to achieve low fertility without the use of voluntary sterilization and impossible to do so without abortion; not everyone plans ahead and even the best contraceptives fail," the editorial said.

"No country has achieved smaller families or low maternal mortality without access to safe abortion -- and none will in the foreseeable future."

The Vatican is trying to build a coalition of Roman Catholic and Islamic countries to support a provision in the conference's final documents barring promotion of abortion.