28. Is NFP a Form of Contraception?

26 nfp pregnancy

I recently posted this article from CNN about Natural Family Planning on my Facebook page and asked people if they could guess what part of the article irked me.

First of all, I’m not irked at all that CNN is writing about NFP. It was a surprisingly positive article and I’m glad they’re getting the word out. What irked me was the fact that they called NFP a method of contraception. I know, I know – one cannot expect CNN to understand (or care about) the nuances here, but for the sake of my audience, I thought I’d clarify some things.

Contrary to widespread belief, the Catholic Church is not opposed to “birth control” per se. Natural Family Planning is a means of “controlling births,” is it not? With this point made, people then conclude that the Church is opposed to artificial birth control. While that’s true, it’s also misleading.

As I wrote in my book Good News about Sex and Marriage:

Contrary to popular belief, the Church does not oppose artificial birth control because it’s artificial. She opposes it because it’s contraceptive. Contra­ception is the choice by any means to impede the procreative potential of a given act of intercourse. In other words, the contracepting couple chooses to engage in intercourse and, foreseeing that their act may result in a new life, they intentionally and willfully suppress their fertility. This can be done by employing a large variety of artificial devices and hormones, or by sterilizing surgical procedures. It can also be done without employing anything artificial at all, such as in the practice of withdrawal (coitus interruptus). So, in order to avoid a great deal of confusion, contraception is the best word to use when describing what the Church specifically opposes. ‘Artificial’ really has nothing to do with it and is better left out of the discussion altogether.

Furthermore, the Church approves of NFP (when there is just reason to avoid pregnancy) not because it’s ‘natural’ as opposed to ‘artificial,’ but because it’s in no way contraceptive. Never does the couple practicing NFP choose to impede the procreative potential of a given act of intercourse – ever. NFP is not ‘natural contraception.’ It’s not contraception at all.”

So, what’s the difference between sterilizing the act yourself with contraception and just waiting until it’s naturally infertile? As I often say in my talks, what’s the difference between killing Grandma and just waiting till she dies naturally? Give it some thought. If we can understand the difference between euthanasia and natural death, we can understand the difference between contraception and natural family planning.

That’s a point that, not surprisingly, was lost on CNN. Sadly, it’s also lost on a lot of Catholics.

Question: What more can we do to help get the word out about what the Church really believes (and really doesn’t believe) about these issues? Take the conversation to Facebook or Twitter.

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Photo by Teza Harinaivo Ramiandrisoa, Flickr Creative Commons