Thursday January 14, 2010

“Pro-Choice” but Spreading Natural Family Planning

By Patrick B. Craine

EDMONTON, Alberta, January 14, 2010 ( – Contrary to the popular understanding, Catholics are not the only ones interested in or promoting natural family planning (NFP). One secular organization in Edmonton, despite being avowedly in favor of “reproductive freedom,” has responded to the increasing body of evidence highlighting the dangers of hormonal contraceptives (i.e. the pill) and is now working to convince women that NFP is a far better method of controlling fertility.

Geraldine Matus, founder of Justisse Healthworks for Women (JHW) has been teaching natural family planning since 1977. She uses the Justisse method, which tracks mucus secretions, temperature, and cervical position.

While Matus’ approach to NFP deviates from the Catholic Church’s approach in crucial ways, such as her approval of the use of condoms during fertile times (the Church teaches that NFP can only be used to avoid pregnancy for truly “grave” reasons, and condemns even the whiff of a “contraceptive mentality”), Matus is part of a small but growing movement outside the Church that is rebelling against the dominance of the pill and searching for more “natural” alternatives. The scope of the trend was recently highlighted by remaks made by the director of a former Planned Parenthood clinic who bemoaned the lack of information about NFP, and criticized those who view the pill as the “be-all and end-all.”

Matus, who received part of her education at a Catholic institute for human reproduction (from which she was expelled due to her promotion of condoms and her practice of abortion counseling), says she believes that all women should learn NFP, both because of the pill’s dangers and because it promotes self-awareness. NFP is “really about empowering women through knowledge of their body, and giving them a safe choice,” she told LifeSiteNews (LSN).

“My concerns about the pill from the get-go, so that’s a long time, have been its association with clotting disorders, heart disease, bone loss, muscle loss, the disruption of the reproductive health of women in terms of disrupting how their fertility unfolds, and the recovery of fertility when they come off of the pill,” she said.

About NFP she said, “I felt that every woman should have that particular knowledge about her body, that it was critical for her sense of self and well-being.”

For Matus, NFP is “pro-choice.” The pill has served for several decades as an icon of “women’s liberation,” but Matus told LSN that she believes it is NFP that actually promotes women’s freedom.

“If I’m taking a pill that requires no knowledge of how my reproductive system works, and actually suppresses the true nature of how my reproductive system works, that takes me away from knowing my body,” she said. “If I experience my menstrual cycle month after month after month over many years, I start to learn about myself.”

“A lot of women have these experiences but don’t know how to translate them, make sense of them,” she continued, “so fertility awareness and natural family planning helps women make sense of these experiences, by making sense of them they become less frightening, and then we can begin to honour and respect them.”

Not only does a woman gain crucial knowledge about her own body through NFP, said Matus, but “there’s usually a much more respectful attitude that’s taken with respect to sexual choices. I like that. It’s a very interesting thing.”

JHW promotes their method as a way of both avoiding pregnancy as well as achieving pregnancy, just as other NFP methods, such as NaProTechnology, have done. Because of the “holistic health practices” that JHW advocates, explained Matus, they have helped numerous couples conceive who had been unsuccessful with the aid of infertility treatments.

Despite its documented effectiveness, both for preventing and achieving pregnancy, as well as the growing evidence documenting the health dangers of contraceptive drugs, NFP continues to be largely scorned by the medical community.

Matus said that, “for the most part, [the medical community] is suspicious.” “There’s a fear that women wouldn’t know how to do this, or that their partner wouldn’t cooperate,” she explained, “which are very real fears. But also there’s a lack of knowledge and education in the medical community about this.”

While Catholics have led the field in developing and promoting natural family planning methods, recognition of their many benefits is becoming increasingly more mainstream, as Canada’s major media have pointed out in recent months.

“[NFP] should appeal to all women,” said Fr. Joe Hattie, O.M.I., spiritual director for WOOMB Canada, in response to questions about the movement of NFP into the mainstream, “because they all have the right to a better understanding of their own reproductive gifts, grounded in the very fact of their femininity.”

“If they’re going to use good stewardship of the gifts of their fertility, then they have the right to a good education and a good management of that fertility, in harmony with natural law and God’s plan for them,” he said.

“The Catholic Church doesn’t have a monopoly, we might say, on the science,” continued Fr. Hattie, who is also the director of marriage and family for the Archdiocese of Halifax. “With [NFP], the Church has put science at the service of women’s health and marriage. So, if others are using that to help couples, to help women better understand themselves and to take better stewardship of their fertility, in harmony with natural law, then that’s good.”

See related coverage:

Planned Parenthood Director Bemoans Lack of Info about Natural Family Planning

Fertility Treatment is Hugely Successful but Largely Ignored by Medicine

Study Finds Common Infertility Treatments Are Unlikely To Improve Fertility


Commenting Guidelines
LifeSiteNews welcomes thoughtful, respectful comments that add useful information or insights. Demeaning, hostile or propagandistic comments, and streams not related to the storyline, will be removed.

LSN commenting is not for frequent personal blogging, on-going debates or theological or other disputes between commenters.

Multiple comments from one person under a story are discouraged (suggested maximum of three). Capitalized sentences or comments will be removed (Internet shouting).

LifeSiteNews gives priority to pro-life, pro-family commenters and reserves the right to edit or remove comments.

Comments under LifeSiteNews stories do not necessarily represent the views of LifeSiteNews.