7 Things Charting Taught Me c/o Cassie Wilson

Natural Family Planning and Fertility Awareness Method are typically associated with married couples trying to achieve or avoid pregnancy…. but fertility awareness encompasses more than pregnancy achievement/avoidance. It’s a refreshing, holistic, reverent way to view the body of a woman and the way it is designed.

Cassie Wilson, a young adult Catholic, shares what she has learned through charting her cycles and diving deeper into the understanding of her feminine genius. Click here to read about what she learned.

You can follow her on twitter @cassiedrajw

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Seat Belts and Contraception – What’s the Difference? by Mark Gonnella

There seems to be an irrational confidence in the use of contraception.  In the modern age, the use of contraception is accompanied by the blithely deluded comfort of ‘Well, at least they are not getting pregnant!’  This achievement, as well as the prevention of most STDs, has contraception being touted as a staple of modern medicine with unremitting alacrity.  It is the preferred alternative–nay, the    only perceived alternative–to unprotected sex.  Abstinence is outdated and oppressive.  We are sexual beings and should be allowed to act according to our own nature.  For the secularist, such statements induce no qualms of conscience; but for the Christian, they should.  There is a reason why prior to 1960, there were only two commonly known sexually transmitted diseases, and now over 25 venereal diseases are identified: people are having sex more frequently and recklessly because contraception promotes such behavior.

Contraception promotes promiscuity because it vilipends the sexual act; it makes the serious act of sex into a causal one. Many sensible and intelligent individuals, like Pope Paul VI, knew what contraception would cause because they knew what contraception promotes: a sexual license.  Paul VI in Humane Vitae remarks on this fact in a compelling paragraph that is worth quoting fully:

Responsible men can become more deeply convinced of the truth of the doctrine laid down by the Church on this issue if they reflect on the consequences of methods and plans for artificial birth control. Let them first consider how easily this course of action could open wide the way for marital infidelity and a general lowering of moral standards. Not much experience is needed to be fully aware of human weakness and to understand that human beings — and especially the young, who are so exposed to temptation — need incentives to keep the moral law, and it is an evil thing to make it easy for them to break that law. Another effect that gives cause for alarm is that a man who grows accustomed to the use of contraceptive methods may forget the reverence due to a woman, and, disregarding her physical and emotional equilibrium, reduce her to being a mere instrument for the satisfaction of his own desires, no longer considering her as his partner whom he should surround with care and affection (HV 17).

It grants the individual all the pleasures of sexual intercourse without the consequences and responsibilities.  It tells the voracious child that he can eat all the candy in the store without getting sick.  But, alas, far off in the distance comes the shrill repartee of the enlightened generation.  They contend that contraception does not promote promiscuity inasmuch as a seat belt does not promote car accidents.  Upon the sound of the final syllable being uttered, laughter fulminates from the enlightened peanut gallery.  The matter thus seems to be settled, for, prima facie, this argument seems solid.  After all, preventive measures do not necessitate that one engage in the action that causes the effects from which the measure prevents.  Bulletproof vests, they will say, do not promote people to shoot each other.  Seemingly, then, this argument settles the dispute.  However, the intuitively conscientious person wants to object to this argument; they know that something is amiss.

The argument that contraception does not promote promiscuity inasmuch as seat belts do not promote car accidents seems sound only because it is deceitful; the argument is not strengthened by logic but by casuistry.  The reason why this argument is false is that it rests on a false analogy.  The intent is to fool the reader to focus on the category of instruments, namely, that both instruments (i.e. seat belts and contraception) act as preventive instruments.  Thus, without further inspection, the argument seems logical because of the congruity of intent of the instruments—each one acts as a preventive measure.  After careful analysis, however, one will immediately see the incongruity of the two acts.  Sexual intercourse and car accidents are qualitatively different experiences. To compare the two in a positive argument (i.e. x does not do this because y does not) presupposes a factual error: that without the preventive measures, both experiences are equal.

Let us unpack this argument further.  The sexual act has two primary negative consequences: unwanted pregnancy and unwanted STDs.  Car accidents have many negative consequences, but two primary ones, assuming that you are driving alone, are serious injury and death.  Clearly, the severity of the consequences of each respective act differs greatly, but the real qualitative difference is what precedes the consequences.  As mentioned above, the sexual act is a pleasurable and desirable act, while car accidents are not.  Whether the preventive measures exist, the former will still be a pleasurable and desirable act and the latter will not. The absence of the preventive measure will not make the sexual act any less pleasurable or desirable.  In contrast, without seat belts car accidents are still undesirable and painful.  Nothing changes with the addition of the preventive measure.  The seat belt may prevent the person from being ejected from the vehicle, but the car accident itself, with or without the seat belt, is still painful and undesirable.  The difference, then, between the two acts (the sexual act and a car accident) is that the experience of the sexual act does change with the addition of contraception–for contraception drastically limits the possibility of the two negatives consequences from occurring.  The car accident is still painful, there is still a high probability of injury to the person(s) in the car, and the damaged car is still a burden to the person involved, even if he was not severely harmed in the accident.

To put it simply, seat belts mitigates the negative effects from an undesirable act (a car accident); contraception greatly decreases the negative effects from an otherwise desirable act (the sexual act).   Therefore, one may argue, that the sexual act becomes more pleasurable and much more desirable with contraception, while a car accident does not become more pleasurable or desirable with seat belts.  The vulnerability of the sexual act is removed, for the person using contraception feels like he is in control of the act.  By greatly decreasing the chances of potential negative consequences, i.e. venereal diseases or unwanted pregnancy, the person believes that he can reap all the pleasurable benefits of the sexual act.  However, it is clear that contraception does not always work.  The issue, though, is not whether it objectively removes the potential negative consequences of sex, but rather it makes people think it does.  This is why it promotes promiscuity because it promotes an inflated confidence in contraception, that one can have the thrills without the dangers, and this illusory feeling of invincibility makes one more inclined to have sex and to have it abundantly.  In contrast, seat belts do not precipitate reckless driving, for the seat belt does not remove all the negative consequences of a car accident, and thus it does not invoke a sense of invincibility; the driver is still vulnerable to injury.  At the very least, the car accident is a large inconvenience for the individual even if severe injuries are avoided.

Clearly, you can see how the comparison between the sexual act and car accidents is a foolish one to make.  The only way that this argument would work is if the two experiences were similar.  If car accidents were comparable sensationally to having sex, but still had the consequences of headaches and whiplash, then the invention of seat belts would make many car mechanics quite wealthy.  However, the fact remains that car accidents and sex are not sensationally comparable, and thus they cannot be compared.

Things Your Doctor may not Have Told you About Your birth Control

April, from the blog My Feminine Mind, recently wrote a thorough post on the various types of contraception and the side effects that your doctor may not have warned you about. These facts are not to scare you, but to provide an honest look at the physical damage that contraception can do to your body. Click on the link to her blog to read the post.

And thanks to April for sharing her knowledge and using her time to write this piece!

Is NFP Effective? by Ashlie Dill

Question 1: Does Natural Family Planning actually work to prevent pregnancy?

The short answer: yes.

The long answer: I understand why people may feel skeptical about the effectiveness of preventing pregnancy with NFP. Really, I do – because up until I started reading about it 2 years ago (and practicing it about 1 year ago), I thought NFP was just a lot of guesswork and rolling the dice. Since my cycles fluctuate in length, I thought this meant that I would not be able to use NFP.  I didn’t know that NFP did not rely on counting days (I was confusing NFP with the outdated Rhythm Method). I didn’t know that my body could produce consistent signs that would tell me if I was fertile or not. When I found out about fertile signs, I still was hesitant to believe that my body would actually give me readable clues to my fertility. I mean, come on. It does sound pretty crazy right? I also doubted my ability to understand the signs, even if they were there. Why?

With the rise of The Pill, we have received an increase of direct and indirect conditioning to believe that our bodies are not trustworthy; we’ve been told that our bodies do not possess a reliable capability to space out pregnancy without any chemicals or latex. Think about it. Think of all the messages you’ve received in health classes, from commercials, billboards, websites, the health center at your college: Use a condom. Be on the pill. You will get pregnant, so you NEED to practice “safe-sex.” Indirectly, these statements send a few messages –  one of which is that you are not capable of preventing pregnancy without these products. (And not to mention bigpharma companies are making a killing off of society’s dependency on their products.)

But it’s not true. You can prevent pregnancy with NFP and it’s highly effective. However, understanding and believing its efficacy depends on a thorough and accurate understanding of a woman’s menstrual cycle. Until you have a grasp of that, you will continue to possess doubts. After studying the menstrual cycle, you can learn how NFP works in conjunction with the natural fluctuations of a woman’s body in order to prevent or achieve pregnancy.

But don’t take my word for it. Before you launch into a comment-leaving rage, check out these other sites that discuss the effectiveness of NFP.

http://www.naturalfamilyplanning.ie/nfp-effectiveness/how-effective/

http://iusenfp.com/home/does-nfp-work/

http://www.lady-comp.com/en/page/effectiveness (this organization’s fertility monitor boasts a 99.3% effectiveness rate.)

Stay tuned for the next most frequent question on NFP.

Why do the Bishops and Other Catholics Oppose the HHS Mandate? by Ashlie Dill

On July 19th the Huffington Post published an article entitled Catholic Bishops Promote ‘Natural’ Family Planning Amid Battle Over Contraception Mandate.”  While I certainly have issues with the content of this article, I will choose to focus on the title because I believe that the title is misleading. It is true that the Bishops and many Catholic writers have taken the opportunity to write about and discuss Natural Family Planning (NFP). However, this is not simply a battle between NFP and contraception. While that conversation is one worth having, the Bishops’ (and other religious) opposition to the HHS Mandate goes far beyond the immorality contraception.

Targeting the Bishops’ stance on contraception is a way to distract Americans from the real problem that the Bishops have with the mandate. The true issue here is that our government is requiring that all employers provide health plans that include hormonal contraception, early abortifacient drugs and sterilization. These services must be provided by employers even if they have a religious objection to these services. Requiring that they provide these services violates their First Amendment right to the freedom of religion. Those who are opposed to the mandate are not trying to diminish existing access to contraception, even if they are morally opposed to the use of contraception.

In addition to having their religious liberty violated, the institutions that do not comply with the mandate will be subjected to heavy fines. These fines are not simply the coverage cost for birth control and other services, but an exorbitant amount. Here are the words directly from the CRS Report:

A group health plan that fails to comply with the pertinent requirements in the IRC may be subject to a tax of $100 for each day in the noncompliance period with respect to each individual to whom such failure relates. However, if failures are not corrected before a notice of examination for tax liability is sent to the employer, and these failures occur or continue during the period under examination, the penalty will not be less than $2,500. Where violations are considered to be more than de minimis, the amount will not be less than $15,000.

Yes. You read that right. That’s $100, per day per employee (from my understanding this only applies to women, since these “preventative services” are for women). That’s alot of money. Say you have 25 employees. Violation of the Mandate for just ONE day would cost $2,500. That’s not the end of it… There’s more in the press release from the Energy and Commerce Committee:

 Consequently, for example, if a self-insured religious charity or hospital with 100 employees chooses to exercise its religious rights instead of complying with the Obamacare mandate, it could be subject to a $3.65 million annual fine.

So, the reason the HHS department wants this Mandate is because they believe that a woman should have access to free birth control regardless of who her employer is. But if her employer chooses to exercise his/her religious freedom and does not comply with mandate, women (and men) will be losing their jobs because these institutions do not have the annual 3.65 million dollars to pay the government.  How is this really helping and protecting women? How is this bringing more jobs to the American economy?

Some people may say, “Well, women NEED birth control.” I disagree with such sentiments, but regardless of what I think on the subject the fact is that contraception is already widely available. State and federal governments devote hundreds of millions of dollars in annual funds to provide free or low-cost contraception to American women. 4,000 Title X clinics have provided contraceptives since 1970— 69% of clients fall below the poverty line. Over $300 million is annually given to PlannedParenthood and community health centers that provide contraceptives at low costs or free (Elise Kulik, presentation at the University of Michigan). Contraception is not scarce, and one who needs financial assistance can get it for very cheap, if not free. Why strip religious individuals and groups of their rights – rights that are supposed to be protected by the Constitution of the United States of America – to provide women these services that are easily accessible? In the video below, Representative Gowdy challenges Kathleen Sebelius (lady in charge of the Mandate) on whether she actually used the Constitutional Balance while drafting this Mandate and the ensuing “compromises” made for religious individuals and groups.

 

As the Bishops and others oppose the Mandate, please keep in mind that they are not necessarily seeking to reduce the access described above. They are not trying to make birth control illegal. They are begging the Administration to create an exemption that allows religious employers to act according to the beliefs of their faith – and in this case, that means not purchasing and providing birth control, abortifacient drugs, and sterilizations.

Many Catholics support universal healthcare, even some of the Bishops. But we cannot support this piece of it because it is in violation of our conscience and our Church’s teaching (a well known and well documented teaching, at that). When the government asks us to choose between our religion and the law, we will choose to obey God and the Church. Unfortunately, this likely means the closing of many Catholic and other religious charities, adoption agencies, hospitals and non-profit organizations. And as mentioned, this means the loss of jobs for both American men and women.

Please do more reading as I have only provided a very brief summary on this issue. Here are some links to helpful websites. Also, check out this video in which Helen Alvare addresses some of the issues regarding contraception, the government, religious liberty and the well-being of women.

Having a Minor Freak Out Moment by Ashlie Dill

Today is the day. The day that I have long awaited. It is the day (that the Lord has made and) that iusenfp.com launches! Give this site a look if you are at all interested in natural methods of family planning. And if you’re a little nervous about it, I think their information will help sooth your nerves.

This definitely ain’t your high school health class. The (awesome) stuff you can and should know about your cycle (or about your wife’s cycle) is explained throughout the website. Check out The Science of the Mucus for starters (and learn to love the word mucus. or fluid. take your pick). You can also find descriptions of the various types of fertility awareness and the science that goes behind it. They even have a quiz to help you figure out which method may be the best for you! Super sweet.

As you meander through the website, take some time to read the blog posts about people’s personal thoughts on NFP…including my absolute all-time most favorite piece by Simcha Fisher “How to Ruin Your Marriage with NFP” – and now you’re like whaaaaat? Ruin my marriage with NFP? Ashlie, I thought you said NFP is good for marriages? Read the article and find out what the heck Simcha is talkin bout…

Onto my favorite part: the store. I love the store because it has great products that promote environmentally friendly feminine hygiene and some awesome NFP tools (shopping + NFP = these are a few of my favorite things). I personally would love to invest in a LadyComp. Another plus about the store is that iusenfp.com will get 4% of the proceeds if you buy the products on their site (without raising the price for the buyer, mind you!). This money will go towards the mission and continuation of iusenfp.com. So you get cool stuff and support the site. Win-Win.

Follow @iusenfp on Twitter for updates.

1flesh.org Comments on Melinda Gates’ “No Controversy” Campaign

Photo Credit: 1flesh.org

Do yourself a favor and give yourself a tour of the 1flesh.org website, and while you’re at it, read up on the whole Melinda Gates issue. 1flesh gives a thorough response to why Melinda Gates’ campaign is ineffective – check it out by clicking on the photo! Also, give a looksy the video posted yesterday about why teaching people the Billings Method is better than handing out contraception.

Paragard: Hormone Free Does Not Mean No Side Effects by Elise Kulik

The ParaGard® has a plus. This particular intrauterine device (IUD), unlike the pill, the patch, the shot and a host of other contraceptives, is hormone-free. Wondering how a device could boast an effectiveness rate of 99% (typical use) without hormones, I looked into it.

I saw a mag ad for ParaGard a couple months ago and tore it out. I did so because I wanted to see how the company, Teva Women’s Health, says their product works…

On the website, on the “How it Works” page it reads: “ParaGard® works primarily by preventing the sperm from reaching and fertilizing the egg, making it one of the most effective forms of birth control, with or without hormones.”

We know this is not the full story, so I clicked on the “prescribing information” link in the bottom right corner, and after the document loaded sure enough I read: “CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY- The contraceptive effectiveness of ParaGard® is enhanced by copper continuously released into the uterine cavity. Possible mechanism(s) by which copper enhances contraceptive efficacy include interference with sperm transport or fertilization, and prevention of implantation.”

The makers of ParaGard do not advertise that one of the primary mechanisms of their device is to prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. This is incredibly dishonest and misleading.

“Natural” would a step in the right direction. However, having an T-shaped copper device in your uterus for up to 10 years at a time, is by no means “natural”. Another tidbit worth noting: “Although uncommon, pregnancy while using ParaGard® can be life threatening and may result in loss of pregnancy or fertility.”

Do some research and you will find that IUDs aren’t as magical as this picture makes them seem…

NO HORMONES DOES NOT MEAN NO SIDE EFFECTS: “You may have other side effects with ParaGard®. For example, you may have anemia (low blood count), backache, pain during sex, menstrual cramps, allergic reaction, vaginal infection, vaginal discharge, faintness, or pain. This is not a complete list of possible side effects.” Others include, Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (PID), uterine perforation, difficult removals and expulsion of the device. Though uncommon, the risk for PID is one of the reasons the device is not recommended for women who “have current behavior that puts you at high risk of PID (for example, because you are having sex with several men, or your partner is having sex with other women).”

KEEP DOING YOUR RESEARCH and encourage others in your life to do the same. ParaGard prevents implantation, simple as that. This is hidden from the consumer and brushed up to be so wholesome by highlighting that it is “hormone free”.

“ParaGard®: the only reversible birth control that’s both highly effective and hormone free.”

We know that is blatantly false. Keep reppin’ that NFP.