Governments around the world extract from their peoples billions of dollars annually to promote birth control. People are told that they shouldn’t have more than one or two children and are continually propagandized to use the pill, condoms, IUDs, Depo-Provera, or other methods of artificial birth control used to decrease populations. Then many billions more are spent annually by health insurers and people themselves to use these methods, and then billions more to control the side effects.
Founded in 1977, Family of the Americas Foundation (FAF) offers an alternative approach to procreation, one that does not denigrate the creation of new human life, has no side effects, and costs nothing. FAF, headquartered in the Washington, D.C. area, is led by Mercedes Arz??º Wilson, the sister of a former president of Guatemala, and teaches globally the Billings method of natural family planning (NFP). FAF’s materials are in 21 languages, and Wilson goes even to countries such as Communist China to teach NFP.
FAF is unconditionally pro-life, and “even when I am in China, I denounce abortion,” said Wilson, who first learned the ovulation method of NFP in Humanae Vitae’s year of 1968. “They keep inviting us back.” So FAF is active well beyond the Americas, with NFP teacher training programs for nations in Africa, Asia, and Europe as well.
NFP allows a woman to identify the approximately 100 hours a month when she is fertile, allowing her and her husband to decide when to have marital relations. NFP requires a little work and some discipline — much more than taking a pill — but has a very high success rate with no negative health effects for women.
The most reliable forms of artificial birth control do not have higher rates of success than NFP, and they have serious side effects. The pill contains hormones that disrupt a woman’s natural reproductive cycle, as do other methods of artificial birth control. “They are steroids. You know how people get upset with athletes taking steroids?” said Wilson. “What about all these teenagers taking steroids?” It’s no coincidence, she said, that “breast cancer is up 40% in the past 30 years.”
Even worse, “most artificial methods cause abortions,” said Wilson. “The pill, Depo-Provera, the patch cause more abortions than surgical abortions.” This fact, she noted, is often ignored by some in the pro-life movement who campaign against only the more obvious forms of abortion. Yet hormonal contraceptives do not always prevent conception, but sometimes allow conception and then kill the conceived child.
FAF is very active in the United States, “with teachers in every state,” said Wilson, who said that no one who went through an FAF program has ever told her, “NFP doesn’t work for us and we’re going back to artificial methods.”
NFP also helps many couples conceive children by identifying the times marital relations would be most likely to result in pregnancy. Without NFP, many couples would have great difficulty in having children.
Some have criticized NFP when used to delay pregnancy as encouraging the contraceptive mentality. Wilson said that FAF does not advocate NFP as just “Catholic birth control.”
“We teach as Catholics teach that you have to have a serious reason to use NFP,” she said.
Wilson, author of Love and Family (Ignatius Press) and the forthcoming Love and Fertility (published by FAF), believes that “pornographic sex education is the greatest sin. They are destroying the innocence of children.” During the Reagan Administration, FAF received a grant for its own kind of sex education, designed for parents in order to assist them in educating their children, and “we cut teen pregnancy with our programs to one-twentieth of the national average,” she said proudly.
Wilson has also done work combating human rights abuses in her native Guatemala, where poor rural women are sometimes forced into sterilization by population control-minded health officials. “Mercedes has done more than any other person to bring to light abuses of women in U.S.-funded family planning programs in Guatemala, and to give them alternatives through the teaching of natural family planning,” says Steve Mosher, President of PRI.
Wilson also points to the success of NFP programs in helping to keep families together in this time of vast social breakdown. In fact, NFP couples reached by FAF have an amazingly low 0.2% divorce rate, according to a study Wilson wrote for the November 2002 Catholic Social Science Review. “Using data collected from a sample of women in the United States of America who practice natural family planning and comparing them to well-known national surveys, this study examines the effects of natural family planning and artificial birth control on several dimensions of marital and family life,” wrote Wilson. “The study finds that NFP women have lower rates of abortion and divorce (0.2%), than women in the national samples.” The study is posted in the download section of FAF’s website, www.familyplanning.net.
She said that the divorce rate was extremely low even among non-Catholic couples using NFP. “NFP requires the husband and wife to cooperate in making the life decision,” she said. “If a man loves his wife, he wants to protect her, and then he doesn’t want her to take steroids or use other kinds of birth control with serious side effects.”
Wilson is very concerned about the collapse of birthrates around the world. “There is a new graph from the World Bank that says the birthrate of the world could be below two by 2023,” she said. Nevertheless, contraceptive and feminist programs continue to pour into the Third World. And not only for the Third World: As Wilson noted, the federal Title X law “funds chemical warfare against women and teenage girls around the country.”
Said Wilson, “The problem is in Washington, D.C.”