By Jennifer Bioche
A few weeks ago during Mass, I listened to a sermon about the Catholic Church’s stance against the proposed U.S. Health and Human Services mandate to require faith organizations to provide birth control and abortion services and products against their conscience. It was a good rallying of the faith, and yet, I sat there somewhat puzzled.
Since the 1970s, the Catholic community has been an active provider of “birth control” — free and organic, two words with strong appeal. Except it usually gets laughed at or disregarded.
Natural family planning is taught and offered throughout the United States, yet barely makes a blip on the radar of the medical world. Perhaps because it is the form of birth control acceptable to the Roman Catholic Church. Which is unfortunate, because this bias against faith-based solutions to family planning shortchanges society.
NFP tracks a woman’s fertility signs throughout her menstrual cycle, based on temperature changes and cervical mucus. Results are charted and allow the couple to decide whether to have a child. Couples usually take a class with certified instructors.
Sadly, the method is confused with the very much retired “rhythm” method from the 1930s and is often associated with large families. Next comes the assumption that the Catholic Church teaches that you must have a large family, and that the method diminishes marital spontaneity. Both are false. The benefits of NFP include better marital communication, a shared responsibility (rather than one-sided pill popping) and increased knowledge about the reproductive process.
Also, NFP frees the woman from hormone-manipulating contraception and its side effects. Some women I know shop at three different stores to find the best organic for every meal, but think nothing of the junk they ingest for birth control.
In fairness, the marketing of NFP is poor. The Archdiocese of Dubuque’s website eventually will take you to information about NFP but nothing on how to sign up for a class.
There also needs to be a better full-court press by Catholics on the best-kept secret in women’s health: the link between the birth control pill and breast cancer. The January 2006 New England Journal of Medicine’s “Estrogen carcinogenesis in breast cancer” illustrated such a link. Such findings get little play in the mainstream media. Money and the politics behind the pill are strong.
If the government is adamant about free birth control, it only makes sense that all options are part of the package.Jennifer Bioche is a freelance writer in Marion whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and other regional and online publications. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org