Saturday, 30 October 2010

Natural Family Planning (NFP)?

When I visited the Pro-life "prayer vigil" outside Central London Marie Stope clinic I was handed a glossy leaflet aimed at persuading people not to go ahead with an abortion, and suggesting that awful things were likely to happen to those that did go ahead. I looked up one of the website referred to in the brochure ( Family Life International (FLI) describes itself as a "Catholic Pro-Life/Pro-Family non-profit making, world-wide organisation".

I was struck by the piece on "Natural Family Planning" (NFP).  It seems that any form of artificial contraception is wrong, but "natural" contraception is ok, and advice is given on how the husband and wife can help each other to confirm when the wife is and is not fertile.  The piece ends with the sentence: "SAFE's design encourages the involvement and participation of a husband in the charting of his wife's menstrual cycle, thereby allowing him to be aware of his wife's fertility."

I just can't get my head around the double standard here.  It seems to be saying that it's ok after all to have sex just because you enjoy it, as long as you use the 'natural' method.  Surely if contraception is viewed as wrong it really should not make any difference what method is used.  Am I missing something?


  1. Hi Simian, If you are keen to learn the difference between natural fertility methods of birth spacing and artificial ones, check out my blog post on the issue - there are substantial differences between the way that the two methods achieve their ends, and that's what the Catholic Church takes into consideration.

    A basic defense of the Catholic teaching on contraception:

    Oh, and by the way, the Billings Method of NFP is not unreliable at all, in fact under clinical trials it has shown to be as effective as the Pill with only a 1% failure rate (Billings is different from the old calendar/temperature based methods which did have a high failure rate).

  2. Thanks for your comment Brendan. I read your post on this and I have to say I'm not convinced by your arguments.

    You say: "A couple using contraception change the nature of the sexual act to achieve that end, whereas a couple using natural fertility regulation merely abstain from the sexual act during certain periods of the monthly fertility cycle to achieve it."

    To my mind, if you engage in sexual activity in the knowledge that it is the time of the month when it is not possible to concieve, the means is equivalent to using other means of contraception. The sexual act is performed without the aim of producing a child. Are you saying that you're giving God a slim chance to thwart your plans not to have a child, and that therefore it's ok? Might that not be the same as making a very tiny hole in a condom?

    You also say that: "...contraception has become the gateway to abortion, with abortion rates simply increasing wherever contraceptive use becomes more widespread."

    You are making a connection that is not in itsef a valid reason for denouncing contraception. It's akin to saying something like "in countries where there are more cars it has been noticed that more people are killed in road accidents. Therefore we should use horses and carts instead.

    And you repeatedly reference "natural and moral law". What precisely do you mean by this phrase? These are subjective terms. Can you be more precise?

  3. This is piffle. Simian, you're absolutely right. Using "natural family planning" and using a condom are exactly the same in intent and (if successful) result. NFP is just a dishonest bit of semantics the RCC's come up with to placate the desperate faithful.

    Doesn't work round here, tho. The faithful have already made their choice, along with the rest of us. Catholics in the UK have the same rate of contraceptive use as everyone else - they pay lip service in church but their family size tells the real story.

    And thank God for that. If you want to hear true horror stories about reproduction you only need to talk to people who've grown up in rural Ireland.

    Women with bleeding prolapses after multiple unwanted pregnancies, the inevitable child abuse when a family's ability to cope just can't stretch any further, rapes when Catholic husbands won't take no for an answer from a frantic wife overwhelmed by babies... To my mind the RCC's teaching is less damaging than the Taleban, but that's as far as I'm going.

    Oh, and "natural and moral law" means exactly (and only) what the RCC wants it to mean... I mean the fact that there are naturally gay swans couldn't possibly mean that natural law accepts homosexuality, could it?

    The RCC has its own internal logic and invents its own terms. You have to believe it for it to make any sense. It doesn't hold together otherwise. Luckily for the rest of us, we don't have to give it a second thought.