Recently, I received a letter from a dear physician friend with whom American Life League had worked in the late 1990s. His name is Charles W. Norris and he is one of the world’s leading experts on naturally spacing children, commonly known as Natural Family Planning. His book, Know Your Body: A Family Guide to Sexuality and Fertility, is still one of the best available on the subject.
When he wrote me last week to catch up on old times, he expressed a serious concern. And it provoked me to recall that, while American Life League does not remain silent about what it will take to actually end abortion in America, we don’t emphasize positive alternatives with the enthusiasm we should. A culture that understands the reasons behind naturally spacing children within marriage is key to ending the death grip proponents of contraception, abortion and all manner of sexual perversion have on this nation at this moment.
In his letter to me, Dr. Norris said,
It seems that pro-lifers have used every weapon against the pro-aborts that they can think of: logic, the truth, the ballot box, the law, anecdotal abortion horror stories, trying to get pro-life judges elected and on the Supreme Court and etc., etc. Let me suggest to you that abortion will not stop until everyone takes the responsibility for the handling of their own fertility on their own shoulders in the practice of Natural Family Planning. Frankly, Judie, I fail to understand why pro-life organizations do not vocally and loudly promote NFP as the weapon to combat abortion.
Dr. Norris is fundamentally correct, though we might put his sentiment in a more critical light. It is, in fact, the contraceptive mentality that has driven couples away from a sincere desire to understand fertility and subsequently accept the fact that if a couple really wants to avoid procreating a child, there are natural ways of doing that. Further, should a child be conceived anyway, that same couple would welcome God’s gift, even though untimely, by realizing that God’s timing is perfect.
Imagine a world where teens were not being ravaged by sexually transmitted diseases nor carrying babies and aborting babies while they are still developing into adulthood. What sort of culture would it be if men and women respected each other as human beings gifted by God with blessings that are to be appreciated rather than savaged by date rape, promiscuity and all manner of sexual perversion? How many crimes of the flesh would go away if persons of both genders addressed the fundamental truth that life itself is a gift from God and the practice of virtue is the only road to physical, emotional and spiritual health? In a situation like that, nobody would even think of murdering his own child or pressuring an expectant mother to do so based on selfish reasons of economic gain.
This is exactly what Dr. Norris is getting at. In the spirit of reviving an old friendship and honoring a man who is still teaching us what it really means to respect human dignity, we remind readers of my blog that indeed American Life League does understand the fundamental facts about what it will take to end abortion in America. This is why, more than nine years ago, the American Life League Board of Directors approved the following statement of policy:
Naturally Spacing Children: A Couple’s Act of Faith!
A married couple sincerely seeking the will of God makes a genuine commitment to always include His will in their marital relations. During this process their love for each other grows. The reason is clear: marriage and conjugal love are, by their very nature, ordained to procreation.
A question often arises in today’s society regarding the differences between spacing children according to nature’s calendar (natural family planning) and contraception. A further question is asked regarding the licit practice of such natural approaches. Let us be clear. First, the differences between respecting a woman’s natural rhythms and the practice of artificial family planning methods are stark. In fact these differences were once recognized by all Christian churches. Prior to 1930 no Christian church approved the practice of contraception.
We recognize that the practice of contraception violates the principles of Natural Law which are understandable by the use of reason alone. We endorse the consistent Catholic teachings on this subject and specifically cite Pope John Paul II’s definition of these differences, Familiaris Consortio, (Section 32):
When couples, by means of recourse to contraception, separate these two meanings [the unitive and procreative purposes of the marriage act] that God the creator has inscribed in the being of man and woman and in the dynamism of their sexual communion, they act as “arbiters” of the divine plan and they “manipulate” and degrade human sexuality and with it themselves and their married partner by altering its value of “total” self-giving. Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life, but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality.
Regarding the licit practice of natural approaches to spacing children, which we have referred to as respecting a female’s natural rhythmic cycle, we understand that such practices may be employed for just reasons [Humanae Vitae, Section 10]. We understand that what one couple views as just reasons may not be viewed as such by another couple. It is clear, however, that in loving communion the couple can, during such times and with spiritual guidance, discern the will of God and grow in mutual respect, love and tenderness ever remembering that above all else, God is at the center of their union and the couple’s prayer is “Thy will be done.”
American Life League concurs with Pope John Paul II, who writes in Familiaris Consortio (Section 32),
In the light of the experience of many couples and of the data provided by the different human sciences, theological reflection is able to perceive and is called to study further the difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle: It is a difference which is much wider and deeper than is usually thought, one which involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality. The choice of the natural rhythms involves accepting the cycle of the person, that is, the woman, and thereby accepting dialogue, reciprocal respect, shared responsibility and self-control. To accept the cycle and to enter into dialogue means to recognize both the spiritual and corporal character of conjugal communion and to live personal love with its requirement of fidelity. In this context the couple comes to experience how conjugal communion is enriched with those values of tenderness and affection which constitute the inner soul of human sexuality in its physical dimension also. In this way sexuality is respected and promoted in its truly and fully human dimension and is never “used” as an “object” that, by breaking the personal unity of soul and body, strikes at God’s creation itself at the level of the deepest interaction of nature and person.
American Life League will never endorse any method of family planning designed to intentionally avoid one of the two meanings of the conjugal act within marriage which are to be open to the possibility of a child (procreative) and to nourish the love between the spouses (unitive). We do recognize the distinct differences, however, between artificial methods which are grievously sinful all of the time and the occasions when for just reasons a couple may ask God to postpone conception for a while. It must be clear that couples understand that when they ask God to not send them another child just now they are also saying, “If it is Your will to send us another child at this time, we praise You for Your divine providence.”
American Life League continues to insist that the contraceptive mentality is the root cause of abortion on demand, and we will persist in our efforts to make this truth known in every way that we can. It is because of the insistent teaching of physicians like Dr. Norris and ordained priests like Father Paul Marx, OSB and Father Thomas Euteneuer that we have grown not only in our understanding of how to teach these facts but in our desire to do all we can to spread the good news.
The final end of abortion in America will come when every human being begins to appreciate his own life as a gift from God and the lives of those entrusted to his care as the true blessings they are. A culture that affirms life will not practice contraception nor will it murder its progeny.