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Misinformation: Natural family planning is as effective as artificial methods

Materials to promote abstinence from sex

Materials to promote abstinence from sex (Credit: MATTHEW CAVANAUGH)

MISINFORMATION: SETTING THE RECORD STRAIGHT

Many letters to the editor were penned this year over whether Catholic employers would be required to pay for birth control as a result of the Affordable Care Act – aka Obamacare.

Making the case against the “right to use contraception,” one writer asserted that “natural family planning …is as effective as artificial methods when understood and practiced correctly.”


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Natural family planning – or abstaining from sex during fertile times of a woman’s menstrual cycle – is the only contraception method the Catholic Church deems moral. But science argues against the claim that it’s effective.

According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the rhythm method works 75 percent of the time. That means that there are 25 pregnancies for every 100 women using this as birth control. That’s a lot of unplanned family planning. IUDs result in one pregnancy per 100 women, and the pill, five pregnancies.

Ovulation kits that are available at many drug stores may help couples predict fertile days more accurately, potentially making the rhythm method more effective. These kits are relatively new, and I don’t know if the HHS figures take them into account.

Of course, the letter writer includes the caveat that natural family planning must be “understood and practiced correctly” to be as effective as she claims. How many of those 25 pregnancies among rhythm-method couples are the result of misunderstanding and mistakes? It’s hard to know, but the adage about being a little bit pregnant comes to mind here. Once it happens, you can’t return to before.

This bit of misinformation about natural family planning is especially troublesome in light of a study out this week saying that sex education in schools is inadequate. The report found that only about one-third of school districts surveyed are teaching students to use condoms to prevent pregnancy and disease.

Requiring people to wade through a lot of misinformation about preventing unwanted pregnancies is asking for trouble.

Pictured above: Materials to promote abstinence.

Do you have a different public policy question for Misinformation? Send it to letters@newsday.com.

Ever submitted a letter to the editor and wondered why it wasn’t published? Sometimes – not always – it’s because Newsday’s research revealed that the information in the letter wasn’t quite accurate. So, the letter disappears into a void, which may leave writers wondering what happened. That's why we're introducing this regular feature, “Misinformation,” on our blog -- to try to set the record straight about a wrong fact or impression.

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