In Calgary this June for their AGM and board meetings, the directors of WOOMB Canada (the national umbrella organization for Billings method natural family planning groups) were reminded that they have remedies to offer a world immersed in the culture of death.

A few years ago, Drs. John and Evelyn Billings were invited to China (at their own expense) to train teachers in natural family planning (NFP) for each of China’s 2,000 counties. Many Chinese gynecologists welcome the highly effective method, as an alternative to abortion as a means of “birth control.” The Chinese government is taking note, and the Billingses hope this may be the beginning of a change in China’s draconian population-control policies.

In India, where the Billings method introduced by Mother Teresa freed families from coercive government contraception programmes, a recently published study involving 2,000 women showed the method to be 99 per cent effective.

Advocates of NFP say few people realize that modern methods of natural birth spacing are light years from the “rhythm method” of days gone by. Through modern methods such as the Billings method, all women, whatever their cycles, can learn the simple signs of when they are fertile, and a well-motivated couple who abstain from intercourse for a few days each month can be as confident as a couple using contraception that they will not conceive a child.

Essential difference

NFP advocates say the essential difference between NFP and contraception is that NFP does nothing to rob the marital act of its life-giving potential—whatever that potential is at any time in a woman’s cycle. Couples using NFP show reverence for the inherent goodness of that life-giving potential by saying through their actions: “We won’t ask for the gift of intercourse at those times when we’re not prepared to accept all the good things it may involve. We don’t want to ask for a gift and then return the half of it we didn’t want in the first place. We’d be insulting each other, and God most of all.”

NFP advocates also argue natural methods of spacing births give husbands new respect for their wives’ fertility and sexuality, and that, unlike contraception, such methods require equal commitment on the part of each spouse. They say NFP is especially suited to the cultural values of many developing nations, and that it can be taught and used free of charge, and without harmful side-effects.

Biblical terms

Fr. Joe Hattie, director of marriage and family formation for the Roman Catholic archdiocese of Vancouver, explained it in Biblical terms at the WOOMB meeting. God made man in His image and likeness and wanted him to reflect that image and likeness in the world. Because the inner life of the Trinity is a community of love, Adam couldn’t reflect that reality alone. So God made man a helper, different but equal, to help him to form a community of love, Hattie said.

By saying “Let us make man,” instead of the impersonal “Let there be man,” God deliberately entered into an intimate personal relationship with Adam and Eve, Hattie continued. He wants to be an ongoing part of all aspects of our lives, and asks us to follow His example of close personal intimacy in all our loving.

Contraception appears to be good, Hattie argued, but actually fosters taking and using, rather than giving. It blocks total giving and total openness to God’s will and creative involvement in a couple’s life, and dims the reflection of His image and likeness in the world. “In contrast, (with) a sincere effort to discern God’s creative intention for them … (NFP) allows couples to fully give the gift of self to each other, while remaining fully open to God’s action in their lives.”