Natural Family Planning: Nature's Way - God's Way

30. Science and NFP: Contribution From the Social Sciences

In the field of human fertility and its control, the experiments and reflections put forth in the first part illustrate the originality of Natural Family Planning as a means of birth control and suggest a definition at the same time: in different languages, cultures, and countries, it is first of all an educational approach that allows every human being, every couple, to understand and recognize the reproductive process and therefore to choose his behavior, his way of life, without any exterior intervention, and this in relation to his family project and what sexuality - all interpersonal relationships, the multiple facets of the conjugal dialogue; in other words, what human love - means to him.

Precise theoretical and practical knowledge of the biological facts is an essential initial condition: nothing could replace it. But all the groups committed to this point of view have been able to ascertain that this knowledge is only a starting point and that it is impossible to conduct a valid educational project without also considering the psychological, sociological, and ethical factors. This fact has continually forced itself upon all those concerned.

The history of "Natural Family Planning" is to a large extent the history of this realization. Claude Lanctot, M.D., Executive Director of the I.F.F.L.P. (International Federation for Family Life Promotion) or F.I.D.A.F., of Washington, D.C., has described the first phases:

An initial experimentation phase, essentially biological and medical, which, before 1955, grossly defined human-reproduction mechanisms and identified the first practical tests, independent of paraclinic and hormonal investigations: Knaus-Ogino method and calendar; basal body temperature control.

A second phase of general maturation or adaptation, during which representatives of the medical professions joined those of the non-medical professions to create Information-and-help centers, essentially for married people ("couple to couple"). Groups from all continents joined the five pioneers (Canada, Columbia, France, Great Britain, and Mauritius) and set out, often empirically, programs based first on the sympto-thermal method and then on the observation of the cervical mucus (the Billings "ovulation method").

The third and present phase is characterized by the spreading and deepening of all activities. The groups are becoming more and more numerous, often with a very modest structure, sometimes situated at a national level. They unite to form the I.F.F.L.P. with headquarters in Washington, D.C., or the W.O.O.M.B. (World Organization of Ovulation Method, Billings) with its headquarters in Melbourne, Australia.

The interest raised by the educational prospects of family planning finds expression in two ways: on the one hand, financial support from private organizations, from government structures (USAID, ACDI, SIDA, Cooperation Francaise, etc.), or from international organizations (U.N.F.P.A., etc.). On the other hand, basic research in the biomedical, psychological, and pedagogical fields is on the increase: the regular collaboration, inaugurated in 1976, with the Human Reproduction Department of the World Health Organization is one of the best examples of this.

The second part of this collective book will illustrate some aspects of this evolution: we can sum it up as follows:

We shall thus have reached our objective: to show, on the fundamental and applied research level, the role played by the social sciences in the development of Natural Family Planning based on the different tests for fertility awareness, and this in a general educational perspective and for the promotion of the person.

by Francois Guy, M.D.

Francois Guy, M.D., is Master in Science of Education, Technical Assistant (with his wife) of "Action Familiale" in Mauritius (1964-1966); Vice-President of IFFLP-FIDAF; IFFLP-FIDAF Consultant for Africa; Director of I.R.E.C. (Institut de Recherche sur I'Enfant et le Couple, Grenoble)

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