Natural Family Planning

Just a quick update following today’s Sunday Morning Live.

Obviously there is quite a lot of Internet derision as I lauded the success rates of modern NFP systems, despite the fact that my last two pregnancies were unplanned – our perfectly legitimate attempts to avoid, were unsuccessful!

Here’s the thing about being open to life. One accepts that every act of intercourse is both unitive and procreative, i.e for bonding AND babies. Neither can be separated out. Every time one is intimate with one’s spouse, you accept the consequences that could result, even if those consequences are not what one was hoping for.

Having sat down with my NFP practitioner, I realised that the mistake was user error, not the system itself. What happened on the last occasion was that I had a sick bug around the time of ovulation, which threw the whole system out. Thinking I had already ovulated, with the entire family beset with illness, some observations went awry.

That’s more than enough information but the point is, like any method of ‘traditional contraception’ it didn’t work out. We accepted and welcomed the imminent arrival and are now looking forward to meeting her. Many of our non-Catholic friends and acquaintances have testified to multiple condom/pill failure. These are all intelligent people able to follow instructions on a packet. Anecdotes are not the plural of data. Contraception is not 100% effective. If you have sex, there is a chance you will have a baby, regardless of how careful you think you are being.

But here’s the crucial difference. I live in the developed western world. I know how jolly hard it is when one doesn’t space pregnancies. I’ve been either pregnant or breast-feeding continually since February 2009. This pregnancy has proved the most physically and emotionally demanding of all. I cannot begin to imagine how difficult this situation would be for a woman in the developing world. I have access to decent healthcare, ante-natal care, the ability to eat healthily, take vitamins, have clean running water and will give birth in sterile conditions. I am able to provide shelter for and feed and clothe my existing children .

A woman in the developing world has none of that. My contemporary in sub-Saharan Africa or any other impoverished country, would, in all probability die, if she were in my situation.

So what’s the answer? Accept this and give her a long lasting hormonal contraceptive jab to prevent her from having any more children? What happens if it fails? Or should that extra $4.6 billion that the Melinda Gates Foundation has acquired to prevent women from having larger families be spent on ensuring that women in the developing world have the same choices, opportunities, access to quality healthcare that women in the western world have? So that if a woman finds herself facing 3 pregnancies in 3 years, she actually has a practical and realistic choice? The choice of life, not only for her, but her family and children.

Shouldn’t aid be about helping and empowering women to raise healthy babies and choose their family size, large or small? No matter how difficult the circumstances?

7 thoughts on “Natural Family Planning

  1. Providing contraception to a woman to to evenly space out a family would not necessarily reduce family size, it would enable all her children to have a better chance of a healthy life with a mother who is much more likely to be around to help them. People can have large families safely. Making sure these women have access to good quality healthcare is much more easily achieved without crisis situations taking all the available resources. Sometimes women have to put their children and their needs before that of their own beliefs.

  2. Dear Caroline,

    I thought you spoke very well, but what stood out for me was your non verbal witness. You came over as a true woman, oozing fertility and a generous motherhood. You looked very beautiful; someone full of love, truth and the grace of God. So congratulations. And God bless and protect you and your family and your little one yet unborn.

  3. I think in the Western world people have started to ‘forget’ that sex isn’t ‘just great fun’…it is, as you say, to make babies. And if people deny that fact, babies become an ‘inconvenient result’ of that ‘rather fun activity’…

  4. Saw you on the BBC on the contraception question and Melinda Gates. You did a great job. We had been requested to join on skype, but we were not able to. We put them in touch with Dr. Robert Walley but htey rejected him when they found out he is Evangelical and therefore would not fit in with their agenda of bashing the Church! Anyway, great job..


    Austin Ruse

  5. I wish iplayer was available abroad…

    The Melissa Gates story is something of a benchmark for how far my worldview is evolving away from the secular liberal humanist pigheadedness of my sixth form years. After being exposed to the Theology of the Body and NFP, I’m conscious that I’m now drawing instinctively on perspectives, like yours, that root their concern much deeper and consequently engage with the issue at hand in a much more integrated way. But for all the dignity and compassion , I really struggle with seeing how the sacrifices you are voluntarily undertaking could be presented as a model of international public health. I’m torn, and I hope this doesn’t come accross just as discouragement, I appreciate the clarity with which you write so much, especially when I disagree, because my views are so unformed that it really helps to have something solid to engage with!

  6. I didn’t get to see you on Sunday Morning Live but admire your courage in appearing. These things are not always easy to do, especially when promoting a controversial minority viewpoint to a challenging audience.

    You make a strong moral point in arguing for better healthcare services in the poorer parts of the world. Where I find you less persuasive is in your apparent lack of enthusiasm for making contraceptive services available in those places. Although you are a Catholic with strong views on contraception, as a Westerner you at least have a choice over whether to use conventional contraception or not. Many people in the third world do not, in practice, have that choice – for all sorts of reasons, ranging from lack of information to lack of services. Shouldn’t that choice be made available to them, just as it is available to you?

    I also question your reference to “that extra $4.6 billion that the Melinda Gates Foundation has acquired to prevent women from having larger families”. You make it sound as though the Melinda Gates Foundation is supporting Chinese-style methods of compulsions. They are not. This is about giving women a choice, not about forcing them not to have children. As a Catholic with a commitment to social justice, would it not be more appropriate for you to promote your views on contraception through rational and moral argument rather than through seeking to deny women in poorer countries the same control over their bodies which women in richer countries are able to enjoy?

  7. Have just caught up on this and thought you did a great job and gave a convincing witness, as did the dr in Africa. Not an easy one. But it’s unfortunate that people are given the impression that the Church ‘won’t allow’ women to use contraceptives. They can do what they like – they have free will – but it’s the Church’s role to point out that decisions have consequences that may not be in their best interests.

    I must say that I’m always struck by the closeness of couples that use NFP; their relationship seems to have a quality rarely found today. But that’s just a personal view, hardly an argument! May God bless you.

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