“The primary action to take against abortion is to teach natural methods of family planning.”  Fertility experts John and Evelyn Billings told listeners during their recent Canadian lecture tour.

Many people respond to that statement like the Korean doctor who saw a little Irish nursing sister trying to teach NFP in their hospital.  “You’re wasting your time, Sister” he scoffed.  “We learned all about rhythm in medical school.  It doesn’t work.”

“Doctor, if you pay attention you’ll learn a good deal more than you seem to have learned in med school,” she retorted.  “It’s not rhythm, and it does work.”  She was right, of course, as the doctor admitted after watching her results for some time.

The fact is, much has happened in fertility research during the past fifty years thanks to dedicated people like Dr. John and Doctor Evelyn Billings.

Today it is known with certainty that a woman ovulates at only one point in each menstrual cycle, and only then can be become pregnant.  The time of ovulation can vary greatly from cycle to cycle, but its approach is always heralded by the appearance of a secretion termed “fertile mucus,” without which conception does not occur.  Following ovulation, a slight but definite temperature occurs.

From these biological facts, the two main methods of natural family planning have developed (each with minor variations), involving somewhat different ways of monitoring and interpreting the woman’s signs of fertility.  The Billings/Ovulation methods are based on the appearance (or non-appearance) of fertile mucus, the “fore-runner” of ovulation.

Highly effective

The success of NFP in spacing pregnancies arises from the accuracy with which modern methods pinpoint the time of ovulation and fertility, and the fidelity of the couple in refraining from genital contact at those times.

“The only way to ensure that you will not become a parent is by the total and complete avoidance of genital contact with a person of the opposite sex.  There is no other way at all,” Dr John Billings stresses.

Speaking of the method they developed, now used by some 40 million couples, Dr. Lyn Billings says, “It can be used successfully in all stages of a woman’s reproductive life, from adolescence, through childbirth and breastfeeding, to menopause.

It is effective in two ways, John Billings explains.  “For managing infertility, it is the primary method in use in the world today.  And for spacing pregnancies, it is generally rated as over 98 per cent effective if used correctly.”

It has been repeatedly demonstrated that even illiterate women living in abject poverty can use the Ovulation Method to this effectiveness level.  “No other method can surpass the records,” the Billings emphasize.

Over the past 30 years, there have been dramatic increases in the promotion and use of contraceptives, and in sexually transmitted disease (STD), and in abortion.  The increases are almost parallel, and very closely connected.

Spurred on by a permissive atmosphere and their own desires, reassured by the promise of contraceptive security, people tend to be more sexually active than they would otherwise, to take risks they would not otherwise.

Their trust is misplaced: the promise of security if false.

“Every birth control methods had failures.  No method can guarantee that a woman will not become pregnant, unless it relies on abstinence during her fertile time.” John Billings avers.

False promise

So today’s abortion situation was totally predictable.  Increased contraceptive use inevitably means more unintended pregnancies.  And when the technique fails, it is perfectly logical to destroy the evidence: the child.

Making contraceptives freely available does not reduce the incidence of abortion.  The truth is exactly the opposite.”  The Billings sum up.

In Halifax, one listener asked the obvious: Why not use contraceptives during the wife’s fertile phase?

“On the surface that seems like a good suggestion.”  Dr. Lyn agreed.  “However, the couple is introducing into their life the failure rate of whichever artificial methods they have chosen…at precisely the time the woman’s body is most prepared to start new life.”

The abstinence requirement is often cited as an impediment to the ready acceptance of NFP, not surprising in a time when people are urged to be always ready, willing, and available for sex.

Again and again women tell NFP teachers, “I want to get away from the Pill and the IUD, but my husband couldn’t live with the abstinence.”  They do not see that with those words they diminish both their husbands and themselves.

John Billings’s points out, “Abstinence is not from something, but for someone.  There’s a world of difference.  NFP helps couples lean this.”

That NFP exerts a therapeutic effect on marriages has been observed in cultures all over the world.  It is no surprise to NFP promoters.

Strengthening marriage

They know from experience that natural methods draw from husband and wife those virtues that strengthen their marriage.  Virtues such as consideration, self-control and generosity and shared responsibility for the use of their fertility.  Understanding, increased respect, and improved communication.    All of this builds the love between them, bringing greater happiness that spills over into their physical love life as well.

“In co-operating with his wife to respect her phases of fertility, a husband sees the evidence of his own goodness and unselfishness, and thereby becomes capable of even greater goodness,” Dr. Lyn Billings elaborates.

Global evidence

Evidence from around the world shows that where natural methods of family planning are introduced, there follows a decrease in prostitution, extramarital sex, pelvic inflammatory disease (PID), unmarried pregnancies, abortion, STD, and one-parent families.

Young people deserve better than we have been giving them.  To live chastely, in line with the ideals they are drawn to, they need both information and moral formation.  This should come from their parents; it’s a privileged responsibility, part of their “job description.”

Parents unable to talk from experience about a life without contraception have relinquished that privilege, and must actively seek another source of guidance for their children.  Someone with high moral standards, aware of the delicate nature of their task.

Someone like Dr. Hanna Klaus.  After setting out to teach a group of American teens about their fertility, she reported, “They learned to understand their sexuality, and to protect it.  Within a year there was a substantial drop in the level of sexual activity, pregnancies, and abortions.”

Many enlightened and sensitive programmes are available to parents and groups.  They encourage young people to maintain…or regain…a chaste life style, to give friendship and personal development priority over sexual activity.

Information available

Appropriate information is available for both the married and the unmarried from many fine sources, including Human Life International in Montreal, Serena, WOOMB Canada and its network of Billings’s teachers, and Teen Aid.

John and Evelyn Billings claim the primary action to take against abortion is to teach NFP.  Eugene LaRoque, Bishop of Alexandria-Cornwall  warns, “We will succeed in the fight against abortion only be getting to the root of the problem, the contraceptive attitude.”

Anyone truly concerned about abortion and the many related issues so regularly covered by Interim would do well to take those statements very seriously.

Doreen Beagan is a freelance writer living in P.E.I.