Someone inquires about using the Pill for birth control. John’s response follows:
JOHN: First, dear inquirer, be grateful for the gift of faith that led you to ask the question. On trial for his life, Jesus testified that He had come to bear witness to the truth and that everyone who is of the truth hears his voice. There is no question that Jesus, through his Church, has clarified the truth about birth control with a universal condemnation of unnatural forms of birth control. See Humanae Vitae, n. 14.
That, however, is not all that can be responded to your question which really has two more questions, at least implicitly. First, one part of your question deals with the Pill. There really is no such thing as “to use the pill with NFP” because the Pill excludes or overrules NFP. That is, systematic NFP is based on becoming aware of the natural signs that precede and follow ovulation, but the Pill acts largely by its synthetic hormones inhibiting your natural hormones that would normally lead to ovulation, so most of the time the Pill prevents ovulation. However, sometimes the Pill allows ovulation, but then its effects on the lining of the uterus make it very difficult for the newly conceived baby to implant. That is, the Pill most likely would not allow implantation. That’s what is called the abortifacient potential of the Pill.
Sometimes someone, even a not well-informed cleric, will say you can use the Pill to alleviate some troublesome condition. Well, not if you remain sexually active, because the abortifacient properties remain, no matter what the purpose for which you take it.
Also, it needs to be kept in mind that the Pill increases your risks of breast cancer and strokes. It is simply not good medicine.
Another part of your question dealt with “abstaining when I’m not certain” about whether you are fertile or infertile. In the past few months I have dealt with some very frustrated women who were told not to use the thermometer. The reality is that in some cases the temperature sign can help you significantly to know where you are cycle-wise. It is certainly no panacea, but it can provide a clear-cut indication of being past ovulation when the mucus sign is less than clear. Some women find the cervix sign very helpful. I offer no guarantees, but at least one thing is certain–you can’t choose to use a sign unless you know about it and how to use it. The thermometer part of the system is best handled by husbands. It gets them involved. Of no small matter in some cases, the temperature sign provides the single best indicator, when you are pregnant, of the future due date.
If you would like to learn more, go to our website, www.nfpandmore.org. You can take the Home Study Course; or you can purchase our printed manual (we recommend the coil edition) — Natural Family Planning: The Complete Approach. Or if you do not want to buy the book for about $20, you can download it for the suggested donation of $10; it is even free for the truly poor.
I do not care which sign or signs you use, but I believe with passion that every couple has a right to know the full spectrum of the common signs of fertility and how to use them in a crosschecking way.
(Office will be closed until April 23.)
In His service,
John F. Kippley
Sex and the Marriage Covenant