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?

Worth £280 million of taxpayers’ money?

Just to recap, despite the introduction of compulsory sex education onto the National Curriculum by the Tories in 1993, followed by the establishment of the Teenage Pregnancy Unit by the Labour government in 1999 at a cost of £280 million, pregnancy rates have remained unchanged since the 1970s. The stated aims were to reduce rates by 15% in 2005 and by 50% in 2010.

Let’s examine precisely how close they got to achieving these targets shall we? In 1999 there were 49,900 conceptions by the under 18s. (numbers have been rounded to the nearest hundred and include both cohorts 13-15 and 15-17). In 2005, the figure was 50,200. Half way into the 10 year strategy, instead of the 15% decrease hoped for, there was in fact a slight rise of 0.6%. Ed Balls panicked and announced another £20.6 million to go into the program in February 2009.

In 2009, the latest full year figures available, teen conceptions numbered 45,500. Marvellous, a decrease at last, of 8.8% since 1999. Well short of the 15% target which was supposed to have been achieved 5 years previously with the desired 50% reduction seeming little more than a pipe-dream.

So, how are we doing now? Here’s a chart showing quarterly data from the last year, which includes the most up-to-date data which is available from March 2010.

It’s looking pretty static. No major changes, the extra £20.5 million given by Ed Balls is yet to have an impact. Both age cohorts experienced a slight rise in conceptions between March and June which over the course of the year gradually dropped to a lower rate, rose again and ended up close to where they started.

Interestingly the abortion rate in both age cohorts rose.

The abortion rate rose from 59% to 62% in under 16s and from 49% to 50.4% in under 18s, over the course of 2009.

Around 96% of abortions are carried out on the NHS. So, if we take 96% of 28,465, the total number of teen abortions carried out between March 2009 and March 2010, and multiply that figure by £500, the cost of the cheapest abortion procedure carried out by BPAS and Marie Stopes (the NHS refers/funds 91% of their abortions) that comes to a conservative total of £13.6 million.

So in 2009 we have an extra £20.5 million being spent to combat teenage pregnancy, on top of the £13.6 million being spent to carry out abortions on those for whom the strategy failed.

There are those who might argue that the £13.6 million is money well spent if it prevents welfare costs, which is a horribly cynical opinion all things considered, but nonetheless a perfectly valid position. However given that pregnancy is, in the overwhelming majority of cases, an entirely preventable condition, particularly amongst teenagers, then it could be argued that the £13.6 million is money that can ill afford to be spent, at a time of ever-shrinking resources, especially as the problem could be combated by a simple change in attitudes and behaviour.

Of course Marie Stopes and BPAS will be pushing for yet more access to contraception to teenagers at an increasingly younger age. Contraception has a notoriously high failure rate, it is estimated that around 50% of live births are unplanned, so it stands to reason that more teens being taught that sex can be ‘safe’ will result in more pregnancies and more abortions. Then that charitable organisation Marie Stopes, founded upon the principles of the wonderful lady who wrote letters of admiration to Hitler and who disinherited her son for the heinous crime of marrying a woman who wore glasses, will have more money to develop new business markets charitable ventures in developing countries. All funded by the UK taxpayer.

It’s a strategy that on the whole seems to be working. Have a little look at the teen conception rates resulting in abortion since 1990.

It’s fairly obvious which way the trend is going. It’s hardly surprising that the likes of BPAS are taking every single opportunity to fight to make abortion even easier to access, such as their campaign in the High Court earlier this year, to allow the abortion pill to be taken at home without medical supervision as well as attempts to change the law which currently requires the signature of two doctors, recognising that what was once safeguard against exploitation and a recognition of the seriousness of the procedure, has been reduced to nothing more than a rubber-stamping exercise.

Here are a few other charts which more than adequately illustrate the point.

No wonder those in the copulationary sex education business are laughing all the way to the bank. Money to promote their product and money to pay for their product. Every year over 60% of teens under 16 and over 50% of teens under 18 will seek an abortion. Kerching kerching kerching.

Meanwhile at the other end of the fertility scale, NICE is recommending that infertile couples should be allowed three cycles of IVF on the NHS, each cycle costing approximately £2,000. The biggest cause of infertility in the UK is women leaving it too late before starting a family. The average age of the first time mother in the UK has risen to 30. By the time a woman reaches the age of 35, her fertility will be 50% less than it was at the age of 25. At 40, it will be halved again. Most NHS trusts will not accept a patient for IVF until she is at least 35, when her chances of conceiving are between 17 and 25%.

So on the one hand we are spending millions of pounds assisting teenagers to interrupt their fertility at the moment it shows signs of commencement, whilst on the other, spending millions to deal with the aftermath. Absolute madness.

I am anticipating the inevitable howls of ideology and wishing to impose my morality on other people, by suggesting that different strategies could be employed to reduce these unacceptably high numbers of teen pregnancy and abortion. Of course the idea that teenagers should abstain from sex is no more ideological than the idea that they should feel free to have sex with whomsoever they choose, at whatever age they choose and as frequently as they choose, just so long as they behave in a “responsible and safe” fashion. Indeed the idea that sex can be risk-free and harmless so long as contraception is used is nothing more than wishful thinking with downright dangerous consequences. It is obvious which ideology has the greatest impact physically, emotionally and financially.