Tag Archives: NFP

Investigating NFP: How Effective is It?

You know what they call people who use Catholic-Church-Approved methods of birth control?


– comment on a Championable post

Boy, I’d love to have a dollar for every time I’ve heard that. Studies have been done before that have shown the periodic abstinence aspect of NFP to be as effective or more effective than artificial means of birth control. However, those studies weren’t widely accepted because they were regarded as Church propaganda. It seems that secular science has finally come to the Church’s defense, though.

Natural family planning as good as pill, study finds

The Catholic-backed sympto-thermal method of natural family planning has been found by a German study to be as effective in preventing pregnancies as the contraceptive pill, with researchers also surprised to find a low rate of unintended pregnancies among women who had unprotected sex during their fertile period.

The study was published on 21 February in an online report in the European reproductive medicine journal named “Human Reproduction Today” by researchers from the University of Heidelberg, Earthtimes reports.

Mangling, Mishandling, and Misrepresentation of Science in the Plan B Debate (Part I)

In an effort to inform people that the Journal of Medical Ethics needs greater scrutiny in the peer review process, I’ve been scouring the net for mentions of "rhythm method", "Plan B", "embryo death", "Bovens", and related topics. In the process, I have come across some startling bad statements regarding the scientific study of fertility – on both sides of the political spectrum. Let’s start with some MSM headlines related to Bovens’ article about an alleged relationship between the "rhythm method" and embryo death.

Rhythm method kills more embryos than condom use
Controversial rhythm method study revealed
Rhythm method linked to massive embryonic death
How Vatican roulette kills embryos
‘Rhythm’ method a killer of embryos

Notice a trend in these headlines? They all assume two things: that Bovens published the results of a scientific study and that study clearly implicated the rhythm method with embryo deaths. IT’S NOT A STUDY! It’s a sloppy polemical essay. JME should be ashamed for publishing it.

In the wake of this publication, there have been numerous examples of folks showing a poor understanding of fertility and an unwillingness to be corrected. I am certainly no expert in fertility, but I have attempted to do my homework. If you believe my following observations are incorrect or misleading in any way, do not hesitate to let me know.

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Investigating NFP: The Great Embryo Killer? (Part II)

Read Part I of "The Great Embryo Killer?"

Having used what he believes to be sound reasoning to implicate NFP in avoidable embryo deaths, he then entertains some possible pro-life responses. Since there’s little actual reasoning in Bovens arguements, I’d just as soon skip his charicatures of pro-life rebuttals. However, since they involve subtle changes to his arguments and could easily stand on their own, I’ll briefly address them, if only to highlight his slight of hand.

"So what is the alternative? If one is concerned about minimising embryonic death, then one should avoid types of contraception whereby each unintended pregnancy (due to its failure) comes at the expense of a high embryonic death rate. Given our first assumption, a condom user (who makes no distinction between HF and non-HF periods) can count on one embryonic death for each unintended pregnancy. A rhythm method user, however, should count on two to three embryonic deaths for each unintended pregnancy. Assuming a success rate of 95% for condom usage, we can count on an expectation of .5 pregnancies in 10 years. Hence, the expectation of embryonic death is .5 per ten years for a condom user, which is substantially lower than the expectation of two to three embryonic deaths per ten years on the rhythm method. Even a policy of practising condom usage and having an abortion in case of failure would cause less embryonic deaths than the rhythm method."

"So how can this argument be blocked? First, one could say that the empirical data are questionable. However, the result really depends on the simple assumption that embryos conceived outside the HF period are less viable than embryos conceived during the HF period. If this is the case, then the success of the rhythm method is contingent on a higher embryonic death rate and so every pregnancy due to a failure of the technique will come at the expense of a higher embryonic death rate—and this is all that is needed to get the argument off the ground."

If that’s the case, then the argument is grounded. Continue reading

Investigating NFP: The Great Embryo Killer? (Part I)

[Errors in my arguments were fixed and additional material was added after initial publication. – Funky]

St. Blog’s Parish will soon be all aflutter with news that Luc Bovens, a professor of philosophy at the London School of Economics, has written an article ("The rhythm method and embryonic death", J Med Ethics 32: 355-356) that links the use of the "rhythm method" with embryonic death, i.e. early miscarriage or spontaneous abortion. (Fedora Tip: UnSpace)

"Some proponents of the pro-life movement argue against morning after pills, IUDs, and contraceptive pills on grounds of a concern for causing embryonic death. What has gone unnoticed, however, is that the pro-life line of argumentation can be extended to the rhythm method of contraception as well. Given certain plausible empirical assumptions, the rhythm method may well be responsible for a much higher number of embryonic deaths than some other contraceptive techniques."

Though some responses to the sloppy arguments made in this paper have been made by American Papist, Epiphany, and other bloggers, I do not believe the responses I’ve so far seen address the scientific/statistical aspects of Bovens’ claims. For instance, they rightly point out that the rhythm method was long ago replaced by much more reliable empirical methods collectively known as natural family planning (NFP). However, I suspect that Bovens chose to deliberately seem ignorant of pro-life/anti-contraceptive terminology in order to subtly mock what he sees as ignorance of reproductive medicine on the part of those who call the birth control pill abortifacient. I fear that Catholic bloggers have allowed themselves to be distracted by a red herring.

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Investigating NFP: Ignorance

Via the Natural Family Planning Discussion Board, here's a classic example of the general public's ignorance regarding NFP:

"How long is the Legislature of Nebraska going to do the bidding of the Vatican as expressed by the paid lobbyist of the Roman Catholic Church — Greg Schleppenbach — and the mouthpiece of the same church, Sen. Mike Foley?"

 "He was supposedly elected to represent the best interests of the citizens, not the agenda of the Roman Catholic Church. His latest bill shows where his loyalties really lie — not for women but for his church. He is against any form of birth control. He would have women have babies who do not have the resources to care for them."

"If a woman does not have the financial resources to take care of a child, then the state must help with food stamps, welfare, Medicaid and a host of other services. Are the citizens of Nebraska compelled to support the agenda of the Roman Catholic Church as put forward by Foley and Schleppenbach?"

"Natural family planning does not have a successful track record. Birth control and condom use are far more effective. The state should be subsidizing those methods in the search to cut state expenditures."

"Sen. Ernie Chambers is the only person who always stands between Nebraska and the domination of our lives as dictated by the Vatican."

"If the rest of the Catholic legislators want domination of the Vatican over Nebraskans, then back Foley and Schleppenbach. If you think that one religious belief system should not be dominant in state law and practices, then send Foley and his Roman Catholic agenda to the wastebasket."

Ruth C. Snyder, Lincoln

I feel as though I can almost hear this woman snearing.

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