Dedicate yourselves to thankfulness. Colossians 3:15

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Natural approach works best

Published in Cumberland Times-News Letters December 12, 2008.

"We humans are more than a basal libido, though we rarely get that message in the secular mainstream today."

Craig Etchison’s letter of December 2 (“We need this to save the planet”) presents information about global overpopulation that he uses to counter faith training about birth control and to build an argument in favor of funding worldwide education about contraception. Additionally, Mr. Etchison claims: “If women around the world had access to family planning, millions of abortions and deaths would be eliminated.”

While feminists might disagree that controlling population is a compelling reason to promote contraception, Mr. Etchison’s point about preventing abortions seems to have mainstream secular support. Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia, states in an article about Family Planning that, in the United States, Title X -- serving young individuals and low-income families -- “has allowed millions of American women to receive necessary reproductive healthcare, plan their pregnancies and prevent abortions.” Mr. Etchison and others might be interested to know, as well, that “[o]ver the last decade, abstinence-only sex education became more common in the U.S., largely as a result of federal government funding initiatives,” as reported by Wikipedia.

Another Wikipedia article about Natural Family Planning notes that natural means for preventing pregnancy, including the Fertility Awareness Method, comprise the number one family planning approach utilized in India today and the third most popular used in Brazil. A related Wikipedia article about Fertility Awareness states: “From 1930 to 1980, all research and promotion of fertility awareness was done by those associated with the Roman Catholic Church. Fertility awareness organizations continue to be predominately Catholic, but some secular organizations now exist.”

Regardless, though, of government, faith-based or secular support for abstinence training, Mr. Etchison thinks the world population needs to choose contraception; and he decries America for not contributing as much as $235 million to a United Nations fund that would educate poor populations around the globe about it.

The world view purported by Mr. Etchison is fatalistic. He implies that Catholic Church teaching about Natural Family Planning is remote and outdated; and he says it “condemns women and children to death.” He poses questions that would draw the reader into his line of thinking: That practicing faithful abstinence on a global scale would be tantamount to self-destruction “because we (couldn’t) control our population.”

Seems he means to say, “Because we couldn’t control our sex drives.” With all due respect to Mr. Etchison and the dear reader, we humans are more than a basal libido, though we rarely get that message in the secular mainstream today. We have intelligence and the ability to reason; we have innate dignity; and in America, we have an abundance of opportunities to teach and learn about our sexuality and to seek personal support in choosing better health for ourselves, as well as restraint and civility toward our partner.

Even the Feminist Women’s Health Center, founded in 1971 on the premise that women should be empowered to choose abortion, claims today that the Fertility Awareness Method is “effective if used correctly and consistently.”

Other advantages of the natural approach cited by FWHC are: No health risks; can help promote pregnancy, as well as prevent it; “acceptable for couples with religious concerns about contraception;” increases a woman's understanding of her body; “couples may develop greater communication, cooperation and responsibility.” Disadvantages listed are: “Learning to use the method takes time and effort;” and “[r]equires considerable commitment, calculation and self-control, both by the woman and her partner.”

An article about Natural Family Planning at the Archdiocese of Baltimore web site lists one more disadvantage: “The lack of medical professionals instructed in this method.” FWHC notes, as well: “It is helpful to learn these techniques directly from a qualified instructor if you can find one.” They advise: “Books and websites also have good information.”

Feminists, most secularists and the Catholic Church likely would disagree on most everything. But it seems that common ground can be found on the topic of a natural approach to preventing pregnancy – which, all would agree, empowers women to know themselves and urges men to respect their partner and her fertility cycle.

by Nancy E. Thoerig 12-09-08

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