LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) _ Meeting with fellow first ladies from the Western Hemisphere, Hillary Rodham Clinton is promising to make the case back home against Republicans who favor cuts in U.S. aid to international family planning programs.

``I will share the powerful stories that I have heard here and elsewhere to explain why these programs are critical,'' Mrs. Clinton said Tuesday in a speech to the 6th Conference of Wives of Heads of State and of Governments of the Americas. Earlier, she toured a health clinic and a community bank in poor La Paz neighborhoods to commend programs she said were helping women and children escape poverty and live healthier, more prosperous lives.

Her keynote address at the La Paz conference echoed the theme of her speeches during President Clinton's recent trip to Australia and Asia. ``East, West, North and South, there is a growing appreciation of women's contributions in and outside the home _ and a greater understanding that everyone in society benefits when women are allowed to claim the political, economic, social and civic power they are due.''

Before heading back to Washington today, Mrs. Clinton was participating in a ceremony to award a $5 million U.S. Agency for International Development grant to help the Pan American Health Organization combat maternal mortality, a daunting public health problem in Central and South America.

In the United States, for example, there are roughly eight maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births. In Bolivia, though, there are roughly 390 maternal deaths for every 100,000 live births, according to U.S. AID officials traveling with Mrs. Clinton.

``We know that progress will come if we focus more energy and resources on this issue,'' Mrs. Clinton said. But, she said, ``as you may know, some members of the United States Congress have voted to limit U.S. support for family planning initiatives.''

The opposition from Republicans had largely come from abortion foes who do not want U.S. foreign aid spent on abortions or abortion counseling. According to aides traveling with Mrs. Clinton, AID's budget for family planning and population assistance was cut 35 percent last year.

``Without access to family planning, women often turn in desperation to illegal, unsafe abortion procedures that amount for half of all maternal deaths in this country,'' Mrs. Clinton said. ``Deaths from abortion complications are responsible for 30 to 70 percent of maternal mortality in the hemisphere, depending on the country.''