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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PBS defends decision to air pro-abortion documentary ‘After Tiller’

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By Dustin Siggins

Under pressure for showing the pro-abortion documentary "After Tiller" on Labor Day, PBS' "POV" affiliate has defended the decision in response to an inquiry from LifeSiteNews.

The producers of the film say their goal with the documentary, which tells the stories of four late-term abortion doctors after the killing of infamous late-term abortionist George Tiller, is to "change public perception of third-trimester abortion providers by building a movement dedicated to supporting their right to work with a special focus on maintaining their safety.” 

POV told LifeSiteNews, "We do believe that 'After Tiller' adds another dimension to an issue that is being debated widely." Asked if POV will show a pro-life documentary, the organization said that it "does not have any other films currently scheduled on this issue. POV received almost 1000 film submissions each year through our annual call for entries and we welcome the opportunity to consider films with a range of points of view."

When asked whether POV was concerned about alienating its viewership -- since PBS received millions in federal tax dollars in 2012 and half of Americans identify as pro-life -- POV said, "The filmmakers would like the film to add to the discussion around these issues. Abortion is already a legal procedure."

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"This is an issue that people feel passionately about and will have a passionate response to. We are hopeful that the majority of people can see it for what it is, another lens on a very difficult issue." 

In addition to the documentary, POV has written materials for community leaders and teachers to share. A cursory examination of the 29-page document, which is available publicly, appears to include links to outside sources that defend Roe v. Wade, an examination of the constitutional right to privacy, and "a good explanation of the link between abortion law and the right to privacy," among other information.

Likewise, seven clips recommended for student viewing -- grades 11 and beyond -- include scenes where couples choose abortion because the children are disabled. Another shows pro-life advocates outside a doctor's child's school, and a third is described as showing "why [one of the film's doctors] chose to offer abortion services and includes descriptions of what can happen when abortion is illegal or unavailable, including stories of women who injured themselves when they tried to terminate their own pregnancies and children who were abused because they were unwanted."

Another clip "includes footage of protesters, as well as news coverage of a hearing in the Nebraska State Legislature in which abortion opponents make reference to the idea that a fetus feels pain." The clip's description fails to note that it is a scientifically proven fact that unborn children can feel pain.

The documentary is set to air on PBS at 10 p.m. Eastern on Labor Day.

Kirsten Andersen contributed to this article.

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He defended ‘real’ marriage, and then was beheaded for it

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By Pete Baklinski

A Christian man was executed during the night by a high-profile ruler after making an uncompromising defense of real marriage.

The Christian, who was renowned for his holiness, had told the ruler in public that his relationship with his partner was “against the law” of God. The Christian’s words enraged the ruler’s partner who successfully plotted to have him permanently silenced.

John the Baptist was first imprisoned before he was beheaded. The Catholic Church honors him today, August 29, as a martyr and saint.

While John’s death happened a little less than 2,000 years ago, his heroic stance for real marriage is more pertinent today than ever before.

According to the Gospel of Mark, the ruler Herod had ‘married’ his brother’s wife Herodias. When John told Herod with complete frankness, “It is against the law for you to have your brother’s wife,” Herodias became “furious” with him to the point of wanting him killed for his intolerance, bullying, and hate-speech.

Herodias found her opportunity to silence John by having her daughter please Herod during a dance at a party. Herod offered the girl anything she wanted. The daughter turned to her mother for advice, and Herodias said to ask for John’s head on a platter.

Those who fight for real marriage today can learn three important lessons from John’s example.

  1. Those proudly living in ungodly and unnatural relationships — often referred to in today’s sociopolitical sphere as ‘marriage’ — will despise those who tell them what they are doing is wrong. Real marriage defenders must expect opposition to their message from the highest levels.
  2. Despite facing opposition, John was not afraid to defend God’s plan for marriage in the public square, even holding a secular ruler accountable to this plan. John, following the third book of the Hebrew Bible (Leviticus 20:21), held that a man marrying the wife of his brother was an act of “impurity” and therefore abhorrent to God. Real marriage defenders must boldly proclaim today that God is the author of marriage, an institution he created to be a life-long union between one man and one woman from which children arise and in which they are best nurtured. Marriage can be nothing more, nothing less.
  3. John did not compromise on the truth of marriage as revealed by God, even to the point of suffering imprisonment and death for his unpopular position. Real marriage defenders must never compromise on the truth of marriage, even if the government, corporate North America, and the entire secular education system says otherwise. They must learn to recognize the new “Herodias” of today who despises those raising a voice against her lifestyle. They must stand their ground no matter what may come, no matter what the cost.

John the Baptist was not intolerant or a bigot, he simply lived the word of God without compromise, speaking the word of truth when it was needed, knowing that God’s way is always the best way. Were John alive today, he would be at the forefront of the grassroots movement opposing the social and political agenda to remake marriage in the image of man.

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If he were alive today he might speak simple but eloquent words such as, “It is against God’s law for two men or two women to be together as a husband and wife in marriage. Marriage can only be between a man and a woman.” 

He would most likely be hated. He would be ridiculed. He would surely have the human rights tribunals throwing the book at him. But he would be speaking the truth and have God as his ally. 

The time may not be far off when those who defend real marriage, like John, will be presented with the choice of following Caesar or making the ultimate sacrifice. May God grant his faithful the grace to persevere in whatever might come. St. John the Baptist, pray for us!

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The Wunderlich family Mike Donnelly / Home School Legal Defence Association
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German homeschoolers regain custody of children, vow to stay and fight for freedom

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By Thaddeus Baklinski

One year to the day since a team of 20 social workers, police officers, and special agents stormed a homeschooling family’s residence near Darmstadt, Germany, and forcibly removed all four of the family’s children, aged 7 to 14, a state appeals court has returned custody of the children to their parents.

The reason given for the removal was that parents Dirk and Petra Wunderlich continued to homeschool their children in defiance of a German ban on home education.

The children were returned three weeks after being taken, following an international outcry spearheaded by the Home School Legal Defense Association.

However, a lower court imposed the condition on the parents that their children were required to attend state schools in order for them to be released, and took legal custody of the children in order to prevent the family from leaving the country.

In a decision that was still highly critical of the parents and of homeschooling, the appeals court decided that the action of the lower court in putting the children in the custody of the state was “disproportional” and ordered complete custody returned to the parents, according to a statement by the HSLDA.

The Wunderlichs, who began homeschooling again when the court signaled it would rule this way, said they were very pleased with the result, but noted that the court’s harsh words about homeschooling indicated that their battle was far from over.

“We have won custody and we are glad about that,” Dirk said.

“The court said that taking our children away was not proportionate—only because the authorities should apply very high fines and criminal prosecution instead. But this decision upholds the absurd idea that homeschooling is child endangerment and an abuse of parental authority.”

The Wunderlichs are now free to emigrate to another country where homeschooling is legal, if they choose, but they said they intend to remain in Germany and work for educational freedom.

“While we no longer fear that our children will be taken away as long as we are living in Hessen, it can still happen to other people in Germany,” Dirk said. “Now we fear crushing fines up to $75,000 and jail. This should not be tolerated in a civilized country.”

Petra Wunderlich said, "We could not do this without the help of HSLDA,” but cautioned that, “No family can fight the powerful German state—it is too much, too expensive."

"If it were not for HSLDA and their support, I am afraid our children would still be in state custody. We are so grateful and thank all homeschoolers who have helped us by helping HSLDA.”

HSLDA’s Director for Global Outreach, Michael Donnelly, said he welcomed the ruling but was concerned about the court’s troubling language.

“We welcome this ruling that overturns what was an outrageous abuse of judicial power,” he said.

“The lower court decision to take away legal custody of the children essentially imprisoned the Wunderlich family in Germany. But this decision does not go far enough. The court has only grudgingly given back custody and has further signaled to local authorities that they should still go after the Wunderlichs with criminal charges or fines.”

Donnelly pointed out that such behavior in a democratic country is problematic.

“Imprisonment and fines for homeschooling are outside the bounds of what free societies that respect fundamental human rights should tolerate,” he explained.

“Freedom and fundamental human rights norms demand respect for parental decision making in education. Germany’s state and national policies that permit banning home education must be changed.

"Such policies from a leading European democracy not only threaten the rights of tens of thousands of German families but establish a dangerous example that other countries may be tempted to follow,” Donnelly warned.

HSLDA Chairman Michael Farris said that acting on behalf of the Wunderlichs was an important stand for freedom.

“The Wunderlichs are a good and decent family whose basic human rights were violated and are still threatened,” Farris said.

“Their fight is our fight," Farris stressed, "and we will continue to support those who stand against German policy banning homeschooling that violates international legal norms. Free people cannot tolerate such oppression and we will do whatever we can to fight for families like the Wunderlichs both here in the United States and abroad. We must stand up to this kind of persecution where it occurs or we risk seeing own freedom weakened.”

Visit the HSLDA website dedicated to helping the Wunderlich family and other German homeschoolers here.

Contact the German embassy in the U.S. here.

Contact the German embassy in Canada here.

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