Free will and the ability to assume responsibility for one’s actions establish the spiritual importance and dignity of man. Indeed, we have come to equate maturity with a willingness to direct our behavior in terms of our goals as well as to accept the consequences of our choices. If we look at family planning methods in this light, we can see that natural methods of family planning allow us to live out this vision of man.
N.F.P. encourages us to assume personal responsibility for our fertility and for the decisions regarding the spacing of our children. We do this by managing our sexual behavior in terms of our family planning goals. The use or avoidance of the fertile cycle represents responsibility at a very personal level because it deals directly with the action that leads to conception. In other words, we choose to act or not to act sexually during the fertile time. Contraception, on the other hand, does not address itself to this choice but rather seeks to eliminate our fertility (the pill, vasectomies, tubal ligation, hysterectomies) and/or the natural fertile consequences of our sexual actions (condoms, spermicides, I.U.D., diaphragms, pill). Thus, we can see that, contraception represents the delegation of our responsibility to technology, and stands between us and the sublimely human activity of controlling our actions and thus our destiny.
The philosophy of taking responsibility at the level of our personally chosen action rather than at the level of what follows from our actions has some pro-life implications. Abortion is seen by many as merely an extension of the contraceptive philosophy – that is of avoiding unwanted consequences.
Indeed, this is seen by many, as responsible behavior. But if we begin to think about what human responsibility is, we realize that it is not the outcome of our actions that we should be concentrating, but on what produces the outcome. There would be no need for abortion if people would look at their sexual activity and direct it in terms of their goals. Contraception is a short-sighted solution because it too distracts from the issue of chosen behavior. It identifies fertility and the subsequent results of sexual intercourse as the object of control rather than sexual intercourse itself. Using or avoiding the fertile time in order to plan or space our pregnancies represents immediate direction of our actions and thus allows us the opportunity to exercise our human responsibility and freedom more fully. As our knowledge of our fertility and our ability to manage our behavior increases, we shall experience increasing freedom and dignity.