Rebecca Oas, Ph.D.

Marketing Natural Family Planning: promoting persons over industry

Rebecca Oas, Ph.D.
By Rebecca Oas Ph.D.
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August 14, 2012 (Zenit.org) – The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops designated the last full week of July as national Natural Family Planning Awareness Week, with a focus on introducing people to the concept of NFP in general, debunking the common misconceptions that have been attached to it, and attempting to convince couples to use NFP in place of artificial means of contraception. This goal carries inherent challenges, as the target audience has already been at the receiving end of previous awareness campaigns: firstly, that unregulated childbearing is heartless and negligent, and secondly, that avoiding such irresponsible behavior demands the use of physical and chemical restraints on one’s reproductive faculties.

The sale of these contraceptive measures is a multi-billion dollar business worldwide, and that money also goes toward spreading awareness, from slick professional TV ads to calendars and notepads in doctors’ examination rooms that bear the logos of the latest contraceptive pill or device. In contrast, NFP does not have the backing of a huge industry or lobbying group, and its use does not promise increased income to doctors or pharmaceutical companies — or anyone else, for that matter. Additionally, in a society where changes in health care organization mean that doctors must see more patients in less time, training couples in the use of NFP becomes impractical in that it requires multiple training sessions and a level of commitment on the part of teachers and learners alike that extends well beyond the time it takes to write a prescription.

If the use of NFP fails to generate billions of dollars that may be spent on advertising, the flip side of this is the fact that it is free to the user, with no need of monthly co-pays, insurance coverage, or taxpayer assistance. However, studies that have assessed the demographics of NFP users in the United States have found the women who use modern NFP methods are most often white, Catholic, stably partnered, and college educated (1) — a population which, even in times of recession, is not at the lowest end of the economic spectrum. While NFP has been associated with low divorce rates (2), good communication in marriages, and increased awareness of one’s own fertility cycle, it is important to note that the causal relationships between these things go both ways. Communication, fidelity, and collaborative self-denial are pre-requisites for NFP, even as improvement in those areas may well be a fruit of its use.

So how, then, does one go about educating the public about natural family planning in a world where divorce is rampant, single-parent households are common, advertisements for contraceptives permeate the airwaves even as their byproducts permeate the environment, and the birth of children is either demanded or prohibited, but never simply accepted?

To begin, we can tout the benefits of NFP using some of the standards typically bandied about by the promoters of contraception, phrases like “efficacy,” “failure rates,” and “side-effects.”

This approach works not only because this is the language of much of our culture, but also because NFP has been shown to compete very effectively on those fronts when compared with artificial contraception (3). But to leave the conversation there, in a place where the conception of a person with an immortal soul can be labeled a “failure,” would be to fail, indeed, as the letter P in NFP stands for “planning,” not “prevention.” While advocates for NFP education point out that it can also be used to help couples achieve pregnancy, as a balance for its more commonly referenced use in preventing pregnancy, it bears pointing out that this goal has been successfully accomplished for millennia by simply increasing the frequency of attempts, and that any underlying fertility problems cannot be fully diagnosed nor treated through the use of NFP alone.

As we attempt to educate the world, beginning with ourselves, about the use of NFP, it helps to be mindful that Western culture is already a chief exporter not only of contraception, but of the perceived need for it. Even as Melinda Gates pledges billions of dollars to increasing contraceptive “access” worldwide, experts are pointing out that the demand for such products does not currently exist, often due in part to religious or cultural norms (4). Ecological breastfeeding, which results in a period of postpartum infertility, is a natural method of spacing births, but the export and marketing of commercial infant formulas from industrialized nations to less developed areas not only undermines the benefits of this natural practice, but results in increased infant mortality due to formulas being prepared with contaminated water. Furthermore, comparatively wealthy and well-educated societies which, ironically, would be able to support larger families than they typically have, routinely issue documents labeling cultures that encourage large families as retrograde and reckless.

NFP stands in contrast to much of what Western culture offers the world: it elevates commitment over cost, individuals over industry, and stewardship over stranglehold with regard to one’s fertility. Furthermore, it emphasizes the interdependence of couples rather than the absolute autonomy of women, persistence in self-control over quick fixes, and collaboration over individualism. To practice NFP correctly means more than reducing the number of one’s children; it involves strengthening one’s ability to love, and to desire to extend that love through the gift of self and receptiveness to the gifts God gives, even if it means re-examining our priorities.

The benefits of Natural Family Planning cannot be separated from the benefits of family itself, since it is highly unlikely to be practiced outside of a stable, committed relationship of people who respect themselves and each other. However, despite the fact that many of the people who currently choose NFP over artificial contraception are practicing Catholics, it is important to spread the word about NFP throughout our own communities and the world at large. For just as contraception is the Trojan horse by which hostility toward new life is spread, NFP can be a Trojan horse that introduces the culture of life in places where other, more overt approaches might not gain entry.

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Rebecca Oas, Ph.D., is a Fellow of HLI America, an educational initiative of Human Life International. Dr. Oas is a postdoctoral fellow in genetics and molecular biology at Emory University. She writes for HLI’s Truth and Charity Forum. This article appeared on Zenit.org and is reprinted with permission.

1)Stanford JB, Smith KR. Characteristics of women associated with continuing instruction in the Creighton Model Fertility Care System. Contraception. 2000 Feb;61(2):121-9.
2)http://www.physiciansforlife.org/content/view/193/36/
3)Pallone SR, Bergus GR. Fertility awareness-based methods: another option for family planning. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine. 2009;22:147-57.
4)http://www.c-fam.org/fridayfax/volume-15/experts-call-%E2%80%9Cunmet-need%E2%80%9D-for-family-planning-baseless.html


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Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." Shutterstock
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‘Sick and twisted’: Down’s advocates, pro-life leaders slam Richard Dawkins’ abortion remarks

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By Dustin Siggins

Advocates on behalf of individuals with Down syndrome, as well as pro-life leaders, are slamming famed atheist Richard Dawkin’s statements made on Twitter earlier today that parents have a moral responsibility to abort babies diagnosed in utero with Down’s.

During a shocking Twitter rant, Dawkins responded to questioners saying that it was "civilised" to abort Down Syndrome babies, and that it would be "immoral" to choose not to abort babies diagnosed with the condition.

He said that his goal is to "reduce suffering wherever you can," indicating that unborn children cannot suffer, and that unborn children don't "have human feelings."

In addition to being scientifically challenged - unborn children can feel both pain and emotions - Dawkins' comments drew criticism for his callousness towards children with disabilities.  

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus"

“It's sick and twisted for anyone to advocate for the killing of children with disabilities,” Live Action President Lila Rose told LifeSiteNews. “Dawkins's ignorant comments serve only to further stigmatize people with Down syndrome.

“While many people with Down syndrome, their families, and advocacy groups are fighting discrimination on a daily basis, Dawkins calls for their murder before they are even born,” she said. “Those with Down syndrome are human beings, with innate human dignity, and they, along with the whole human family, deserve our respect and protection.”

Carol Boys, chief executive of the Down's Syndrome Association, told MailOnline that, contrary to Dawkins’ assertion, “People with Down’s syndrome can and do live full and rewarding lives, they also make a valuable contribution to our society.”

A spokesperson for the UK disabilities charity Scope lamented that during the “difficult and confusing time” when parents find out they are expecting a child with disabilities, they often experience “negative attitudes.”

“What parents really need at this time is sensitive and thorough advice and information,” the spokesperson said.

Charlotte Lozier Institute president Chuck Donovan agreed with Rose’s assessment. "Advocates of abortion for those 'weaker' than others, or of less physical or intellectual dexterity, should remember that each of us is 'lesser' in some or most respects," he said.

According to Donovan, "we deliver a death sentence on all of humanity by such cruel logic."

"A true civilization – a civilization of love – does not engage in such cold and ultimately suicidal calculus" he said.

One family who has a child with Down syndrome said Dawkins was far from the mark when he suggested that aborting babies with Down syndrome is a good way to eliminate suffering.

Jan Lucas, whose son Kevin has Down syndrome, said that far from suffering, Kevin has brought enormous joy to the family, and "is so loving. He just has a million hugs."

She described how Kevin was asked to be an honorary deacon at the hurch they attend in New Jersey, “because he is so encouraging to everyone. At church, he asks people how their families are, says he'll pray for them, and follows up to let them know that he has been praying for them."

It's not just strangers for whom Kevin prays. "My husband and I were separated for a time, and Kevin kept asking people to pray for his dad," said Jan. "They didn't believe that Kevin's prayers would be answered. Kevin didn't lose hope, and asking people, and our marriage now is better than ever before. We attribute it to Kevin's prayers, and how he drew on the prayers of everyone."

"I don't know what we'd do without him," said Jan.

Speaking with LifeSiteNews, Kevin said that his favorite things to do are "spending time with my family, and keeping God in prayer." He said that he "always knows God," which helps him to "always keep praying for my friends."

"I love my church," said Kevin.

Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey 99% of respondents with Down syndrome described themselves as "happy." At the same time, 99% percent of parents said they loved their child with Down syndrome, and 97 percent said they were proud of them.

Only 4 percent of parents who responded said they regretted having their child.

Despite this, it is estimated that in many Western countries the abortion rate of children diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome is 90%, or even higher. The development of new and more accurate tests for the condition has raised concerns among Down syndrome advocates that that number could rise even higher. 


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Asked about Iraq on his return flight from South Korea, Francis replied that 'it is legitimate to halt the unjust aggressor.' Shutterstock
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Pope Francis: steps must be taken to halt ‘unjust aggressor’ in Iraq

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Pope Francis and his emissary to Iraq’s persecuted non-Muslim minorities, Cardinal Fernando Filoni, have both called on the United Nations to act in concert to protect Iraqis Christian and Yazidi minorities from the radical Islamic forces of ISIS.

Asked about Iraq on his return flight from South Korea, Francis replied that “it is legitimate to halt the unjust aggressor.”

He added, however, that “halt” does not mean to “bomb” and lamented “how many times with the excuse of halting the unjust aggressor…have powerful nations taken possession of peoples and waged a war of conquest!”

He also cautioned that no single nation could determine the right measures. Any intervention must be multilateral and preferably by the United Nations, he said.

Meanwhile, Cardinal Foloni, who is visiting Iraq on behalf of Pope Francis, issued a joint statement this week with Chaldean Catholic Patriarch Louis Raphael I Sako and the Iraqi bishops that urged the international community to “liberate the villages and other places that have been occupied as soon as possible and with a permanent result.”

The statement also urged efforts to “assure that there is international protection for these villages and so to encourage these families to go back to their homes and to continue to live a normal life in security and peace.”

Archbishop Giorgio Lingua, the Vatican nuncio to Iraq, was also asked by Vatican Radio earlier this month about the U.S. airstrikes in Iraq.

“This is something that had to be done, otherwise [the Islamic State] could not be stopped,” the archbishop said. 

Although Pope Francis’ own remarks about an intervention in the war-torn country were carefully guarded, Catholic commentator Robert Spencer, author of such bestselling exposes of Islam as “The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion,” told LifeSiteNews he believes the pope was clearly calling for an “armed intervention, though a very limited one.”  

“Only a fool would think there is another way to stop an ‘unjust aggressor,’” he said.

Spencer expressed concerns that both Francis and Pope John Paul II before him have both referred to Islam a “religion of peace,” which Spencer says is “completely false.” However, he suggested that Francis’ remarks calling for action in Iraq are a sign of a more realistic attitude towards Islam.   

On this, Spencer would likely have the support of Amel Nona, the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Mosul, who issued a letter last week warning the West in stark terms about the encroaching threat of Islam.

“Our sufferings today are the prelude of those you, Europeans and Western Christians, will also suffer,” Nona warned. “Your liberal and democratic principles are worth nothing here.

“You must consider again our reality in the Middle East, because you are welcoming in your countries an ever growing number of Muslims. Also you are in danger. You must take strong and courageous decisions, even at the cost of contradicting your principles,” he said

“You think all men are equal, but that is not true: Islam does not say that all men are equal. Your values are not their values. If you do not understand this soon enough, you will become the victims of the enemy you have welcomed in your home.”


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'Apparently I'm a horrid monster for recommending WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS to the great majority of Down Syndrome fetuses,' said Dawkins. 'They are aborted.' Shutterstock
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Richard Dawkins: it’s ‘immoral’ NOT to abort babies with Down syndrome

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By Dustin Siggins

In a bizarre rant on Twitter earlier today, atheist Richard Dawkins wrote that choosing not to abort a child with Down Syndrome would be "immoral."

The conversation started when Dawkins tweeted that "Ireland is a civilised country except in this 1 area." The area was abortion, which until last year was illegal in all cases.

A Twitter user then asked Dawkins if "994 human beings with Down's Syndrome [having been] deliberately killed before birth in England and Wales in 2012" was "civilised."

Dawkins replied "yes, it is very civilised. These are fetuses, diagnosed before they have human feelings."

Later, Dawkins said that "the question is not ‘is it 'human'?’ but ‘can it SUFFER?’"

In perhaps the most shocking moment, one Twitter user wrote that he or she "honestly [doesn't] know what I would do if I were pregnant with a kid with Down Syndrome. Real ethical dilemma."

Dawkins advised the writer to "abort it and try again. It would be immoral to bring it into the world if you have the choice."

According to Dawkins, the issue of who should be born comes down to a calculation based upon possible suffering. "Yes. Suffering should be avoided. [The abortion] cause[s] no suffering. Reduce suffering wherever you can."

Later, however, he said that people on the autism spectrum "have a great deal to contribute, Maybe even an enhanced ability in some respects. [Down Syndrome] not enhanced."

When Dawkins received some blowback from Twitter followers, he replied: "Apparently I'm a horrid monster for recommending WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENS to the great majority of Down Syndrome fetuses. They are aborted."

It is estimated that in many Western countries the abortion rate of children diagnosed in utero with Down syndrome is 90%, or even higher. The development of new and more accurate tests for the condition has raised concerns among Down syndrome advocates that that number could rise even higher. 

Although it is widely believed that people with Down syndrome are doomed to a life of suffering, in one large survey 99% of respondents with Down syndrome said they were "happy." At the same time, 99% percent of parents said they loved their child with Down syndrome, and 97 percent said they were proud of them.

Only 4 percent of parents who responded said they regretted having their child. 

A number of Dawkins' statements in the Twitter thread about fetal development are at odds with scientific realities. For example, it is well-established that 20 weeks into a pregnancy, unborn children can feel pain. Likewise, unborn children have emotional reactions to external stimuli -- such as a mother's stress levels -- months before being born. 

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