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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Quebec groups launch court challenge to euthanasia bill

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By LifeSiteNews staff

As announced when the Quebec legislature adopted Bill 52, An Act respecting end-of-life care, the citizen movement Living with Dignity and the Physicians’ Alliance against Euthanasia, representing together over 650 physicians and 17,000 citizens, filed a lawsuit before the Superior Court of Quebec in the District of Montreal on Thursday.

The lawsuit requests that the Court declare invalid all the provisions of the Act that deal with “medical aid in dying”, a term the groups say is a euphemism for euthanasia. This Act not only allows certain patients to demand that a physician provoke their death, but also grants physicians the right to cause the death of these patients by the administration of a lethal substance.

The two organizations are challenging the constitutionality of those provisions in the Act which are aimed at decriminalizing euthanasia under the euphemism “medical aid in dying”. Euthanasia constitutes a culpable homicide under Canada’s Criminal Code, and the organizations maintain that it is at the core of the exclusive federal legislative power in relation to criminal law and Quebec therefore does not have the power to adopt these provisions.

The organizations also say the impugned provisions unjustifiably infringe the rights to life and to security of patients guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Quebec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. They further infringe the right to the safeguard of the dignity of the person, which is also protected by the Quebec Charter.

In view of the gravity of the situation and the urgent need to protect all vulnerable persons in Quebec, they are requesting an accelerated management of the case in order to obtain a judgment before the Act is expected to come into force on December 10, 2015.


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Colorado baker appeals gvmt ‘re-education’ order

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By LifeSiteNews staff

A Colorado cake artist who declined to use his creative talents to promote and endorse a same-sex ceremony appealed a May 30 order from the Colorado Civil Rights Commission to the Colorado Court of Appeals Wednesday.

The commission’s order requires cake artist Jack Phillips and his staff at Masterpiece Cakeshop to create cakes for same-sex celebrations, forces him to re-educate his staff that Colorado’s Anti-Discrimination Act means that artists must endorse all views, compels him to implement new policies to comply with the commission’s order, and requires him to file quarterly “compliance” reports for two years. The reports must include the number of patrons declined a wedding cake or any other product and state the reason for doing so to ensure he has fully eliminated his religious beliefs from his business.

“Americans should not be forced by the government – or by another citizen – to endorse or promote ideas with which they disagree,” said the cake artist’s lead counsel Nicolle Martin, an attorney allied with Alliance Defending Freedom. “This is not about the people who asked for a cake; it’s about the message the cake communicates. Just as Jack doesn’t create baked works of art for other events with which he disagrees, he doesn’t create cake art for same-sex ceremonies regardless of who walks in the door to place the order.”

“In America, we don’t force artists to create expression that is contrary to their convictions,” added Alliance Defending Freedom Senior Legal Counsel Jeremy Tedesco. “A paint artist who identifies as homosexual shouldn’t be intimidated into creating a painting that celebrates one-man, one-woman marriage. A pro-life photographer shouldn’t be forced to work a pro-abortion rally. And Christian cake artists shouldn’t be punished for declining to participate in a same-sex ceremony or promote its message.”

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In July 2012, Charlie Craig and David Mullins asked Jack Phillips, owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop, to make a wedding cake to celebrate their same-sex ceremony. In an exchange lasting about 30 seconds, Phillips politely declined, explaining that he would gladly make them any other type of baked item they wanted but that he could not make a cake promoting a same-sex ceremony because of his faith. Craig and Mullins, now represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, immediately left the shop and later filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Division. The case now goes to the Colorado Court of Appeals as Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Craig.

“Jack, and other cake artists like him – such as those seen on TV shows like ‘Ace of Cakes’ and ‘Cake Boss’ – prepare unique creations that are inherently expressive,” Tedesco explained. “Jack invests many hours in the wedding cake creative process, which includes meeting the clients, designing and sketching the cake, and then baking, sculpting, and decorating it. The ACLU calls Jack a mere ‘retail service provider,’ but, in fact, he is an artist who uses his talents and abilities to create expression that the First Amendment fully protects."

Celebrity cake artists have written publicly about their art and the significant expressive work that goes into the artistic design process for wedding cakes.


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Prisoner of conscience Mary Wagner appeals her conviction

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By Tony Gosgnach

TORONTO -- As promised, Mary Wagner has, through her counsel Dr. Charles Lugosi, filed a formal notice of appeal on numerous points regarding her recent, almost two-year-long court case that ended on June 12.

Justice Fergus O’Donnell of the Ontario Court of Justice rejected every application made by the defence – including for access to abortion center records, public funding, standing for a constitutional challenge and for expert witnesses to be heard – before he found Wagner guilty and sentenced her to five months in jail on a charge of mischief and four months on four counts of failing to comply with probation orders.

He further levied two years of probation, with terms that she stay at least 100 metres away from any abortion site. However, because Wagner had spent a greater time in jail than the sentence, she was freed immediately. She had been arrested at the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site on Lawrence Avenue West in Toronto on August 15, 2012 after attempting to speak to abortion-bound women there. She then spent the duration of the trial in prison for refusing to sign bail conditions requiring her to stay away from abortion sites.

Wagner is using the matter as a test case to challenge the current definition of a human being in Canadian law – that is, that a human being is legally recognized as such only after he or she has fully emerged from the birth canal in a breathing state.

Wagner’s notice states the appeal is regarding:

  • Her conviction and sentence on a single count of mischief (interference with property),
  • Her conviction and sentence on four counts of breach of probation,
  • The order denying public funding,
  • The order denying the disclosure of third-party records,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts on the applicant’s constitutional challenge concerning the constitutional validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code,
  • The order denying the admission of evidence from experts concerning the construction of Section 37 of the Criminal Code,
  • The probation order denying Wagner her constitutional rights to freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion on all public sidewalks and public areas within 100 metres of places where abortions are committed,
  • And each conviction and sentence and all orders and rulings made by O’Donnell.

In the notice of appeal, Lugosi cites numerous points on which O’Donnell erred:

  • He denied Wagner her constitutional right to make full answer and defence.
  • He denied Wagner her right to rely on Section 37 of the Criminal Code, which permits “everyone” to come to the third-party defence and rescue of any human being (in this case, the preborn) facing imminent assault.
  • He decided the factual basis of Wagner’s constitutional arguments was a waste of the court’s time and that no purpose would have been served by having an evidentiary hearing on her Charter application because, in the current state of Canadian law, it had no possibility of success.
  • He misapplied case law and prejudged the case, “giving rise to a reasonable apprehension of bias and impeding the legal evolution of the law to adapt to new circumstances, knowledge and changed societal values and morals.”
  • He accepted the Crown’s submission that it is beyond the jurisdiction of the courts to question the jurisdiction of Parliament legally to define “human being” in any manner Parliament sees fit.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code is not beyond the powers of Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982.
  • He ruled Section 223 of the Criminal Code does not violate the Preamble to, as well as Sections 7, 11(d), 15 and 26, of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
  • He denied Wagner standing to raise a constitutional challenge to the validity of Section 223 of the Criminal Code.
  • He ruled that Section 223 of the Criminal Code applied generally throughout the entire Criminal Code and used it to deny unborn human beings the benefit of equal protection as born human beings under Section 37 of the Criminal Code.
  • He denied the production and disclosure of third-party records in the possession of the “Women’s Care Clinic” abortion site, although the records were required to prove Wagner was justified in using reasonable force in the form of oral and written words to try to persuade pregnant mothers from killing their unborn children by abortion.
  • He denied Wagner the defence of Section 37 of the Criminal Code by ruling unborn children did not come within the scope of human beings eligible to be protected by a third party.
  • He ruled Wagner did not come within the scope of Section 37 because she was found to be non-violent (in that she did not use physical force).
  • He ruled the unborn children Wagner was trying to rescue were not under her protection.
  • He denied Wagner the common-law defences of necessity and the rescue of third parties in need of protection.
  • He denied Wagner public funding to make full answer and defence for a constitutional test case of great public importance and national significance.
  • He imposed an unconstitutional sentence upon Wagner by, in effect, imposing an injunction as a condition of probation, contrary to her constitutional rights of free speech, freedom of expression, freedom of conscience and freedom of religion.

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Among the orders Lugosi is seeking are:

  • That an appeal be allowed against conviction on all counts and that a verdict of acquittal be entered on all counts,
  • That Section 223 of the Criminal Code be found unconstitutional  and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, as well as the unwritten constitution of Canada,
  • That the sentence be declared unconstitutional and contrary to Section 52 of the Constitution Act, 1982, and the unwritten constitution of Canada or that a new trial be conducted, with Wagner permitted to make full answer and defence, be given standing to make a constitutional attack on Section 223 of the Criminal Code, with the admission of expert witnesses,
  • That the Women’s Care Clinic abortion site be made to produce third-party records pertaining to patients seen on August 15, 2012 (when Wagner entered the site),
  • And that there be public funding for two defence counsels at any retrial and for any appeal related to the case.

No date has yet been established for a decision on the appeal or hearings.

A defence fund for Wagner’s case is still raising money. Details on how to contribute to it can be found here.


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