A mama knows best, so let’s let her decide (COMMENTARY)

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A mother holds her daughter in Mmankgodi village, Botswana.

Photo courtesy of Lucian Coman via Shutterstock

A mother holds her daughter in Mmankgodi village, Botswana.

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(RNS) We cannot allow simplistic, self-focused narratives about contraception and family planning to keep us from helping women who, really, aren't much different from us.

  • This piece leaves me completely confused. What conversation is this a part of? Who is its audience and what does it advocate for? Is the focus on oral contraceptives for women in the developed world?
    While I think increasing availability of many forms of contraception and reproductive education in the developing world is a great thing the piece just seems blind to the innumerable layers of complex culture that stands between our world and the thousands of subcultures our advocacy imagines itself to address. When I was a long term missionary I watched numbers of medical and missionary teams roll through promoting and advocating this or that cultural, religious or medical agenda. Intentions were good. The tools they often gave were good, but the effort was often tone deaf to the realities of the people. How would we regard aliens passing through giving women tools on how to regulate reproduction. Men and women ask “and your agenda for this deep part of our family lives is what…

  • Kamilla

    its painfully ironic to read a childless-by-choice woman telling us all, “What a momma knows”.

    Its difficult to buy the statistics here when countries make basic healthcare contingent on a woman’s accepting birth control as a prior requirement or that it is necessary to deny a woman’s right to informed consent or that countries seem to find it necessary to forcibly, sometimes without the woman’s knowledge, sterilise and abort.


  • James Carr

    This is the same argument that led to the acceptance of abortion in the West. Pick a few statistics, throw in a couple of sad stories, and raise the murder of children to a virtue that mothers can permit.
    It is all alarmist overkill. Teach women to control their lust and recognize their fertile period of the month. Let’s not spread death options to the rest of the world.

  • Greg

    Mother Teresa taught the poor in Calcutta Natural Family Planning, which has an effective rate better than any contraceptive if followed. The problem is there is not cost to it, and doesn’t feed the Contraceptive Industry, so politicians avoid it at every turn. And of course politicians also believe that women and men are breeding machines that just cannot control themselves, so why bother teaching something that actually requires a little bit of self control.

  • Melissa

    One key think you are glossing over is “if followed”. It hardly ever is followed, and so that method of contraception is pretty much a failed strategy.

    Also, Mother Teresa should really not be put forward now as a shining example of anything other than maybe extreme cruelty, given the expose of the awful suffering that she caused.

  • Melissa

    You must be quite old. The world left your failed approach to contraception behind many decades ago.

  • Kamilla


    You do realize the “if followed” qualification applies to all forms of HBC, right?

    You are quite wrong about the world leaving behind the “failed” approach of NFP. There is a growing awareness among both secular and Christian women of the risks, dangers, and side effects of HBC and a growing number of women are embracing NFP as the natural alternative.

    Holly Grigg-Spall’s book, “Sweetening the Pill” is just one example of this growing phenomenon.

  • James Carr

    And look at the world you wallow in so gleefully and naïve. Pity.

  • Larry

    “Natural family” planning has been what people have used for centuries. It never resulted in lowering birthrates or family sizes in any time in history.

    “Natural Family Planning” has never been effective. It amounts to essentially ignoring the situation and making holier than thou pronouncements when the problem of inevitably fails to be affected.

    Its much easier to say, “people need a little self control” than to show awareness or take affirmative effective steps. Typical conservative christian approach: point fingers, ignore facts and make the problem worse.

  • Larry

    “Natural birth control” has never worked to reduce birthrates anywhere. It amounts to doing what people were doing prior to the advent of contraception. Nothing and making nonsense pronouncements of lack of self control. Areas in the US where “abstinence-only” sex education programs existed had some of the highest teen pregnancy results.

    If such techniques were ever effective, there would never have been such widespread acceptance of contraception. Birthrates and abortion rates would not be declining in places where contraception and abortion are readily accessible. But they are.

    Even the World Health Organization thinks “NFP” is crap compared to actual contraception and family planning

  • Emily Bange

    Dear God. I know this is a controversial topic, but I had not expected the comments on what seems to me to be simple common sense to be so vicious. A woman who is childless by choice can’t advocate for the rights of other women to be able to make the same choices that she has made? Really? And women need to control their lust? Let’s be clear here: in most areas of the world where this is a serious issue, women don’t have the right to say no to their husbands when they demand sex. This is not a “women’s lust” issue. This is a women’s bodies not falling victim to men’s lust issue. And natural family planning is more effective than family planning? One, I don’t believe that that is true in any universe, and two, there was a specific caveat- “if followed.” Good luck with that. See issue above about men’s lust and a woman’s ability to refuse her husband. The “if followed” bit is an complete fantasy. Ugh!

  • JR

    So women are forced to have sex with their husbands in America,or just the poor countries? So educating them on contraceptives will help their situation? Try educating them on their body’s cycles, and their duty to say no to their husband.
    Natural Family Planning works in no known universe? How quaint. We can make gigantic leaps in scientifically conceiving babies and killing them equally as fast, but science cannot track a woman’s natural fertile period? I find that lazy and irresponsible, then. Do women enjoy their “poor victim” status? Take charge ethically and stop pointing to men or new social norms as the predator.

  • Melissa

    JR and Kamilla, read Larry’s comment above re NFP. He is spot on with it. NFP simply is not effective anywhere over long term and studied over an appropriate population sample. It’s terrible to tout it for undeveloped countries especially, and also for America.

    Look, you Christian wingnuts have already lost the contraception battle, and most of you have changed your views as a result. You are among the few pathetic holdouts clinging to silly failed dogma.The brighter folks have moved on.

    And isn’t it odd that your “god” gave men and women such strong lust? Doesn’t say a lot for your “god”, or are you going to try to blame that on the “satan” that is apparently so much more powerful than your “god”?

  • Melissa

    You are clearly the “naïve” one, which is far worse to be at your age.

    Many of the problems that my generation faces are the result of excesses by people of your generation, so speaking of wallowing, it seems you are the one who better deserves that term.

    You’ll be gone soon and the world will be better off without you. Not really a pity, other than re your life having been wasted believing in fairy tales.

  • Melissa

    thanks Larry. Great comment and reference.

  • Kamilla

    At least this wingnut knows the difference between Natural Family Planning and abstinence only education for teenagers. Sigh.

    Get back to me when you can engage what is actually being advocated rather than combining insults with fallacies and diversions.

  • Kamilla


    If you scroll down to the proper listing, you’ll find that Estrogen-only and combined estrogen-progesterone therapies are Class I carcinogens. That is, they are known human carcinogens listed in the same category as tobacco, benzene and formaldehyde.

    Just some food for thought.

  • Larry

    So petty insults is all you have Kamilla.

    You have done nothing to address the topic other than sling irrelevancies and engage in silly scare tactics.

    Nowhere from an objectively credible source do you have evidence that “Natural Birth Control” (aka doing nothing but point sanctimonious fingers at people and calling people “lustful animals”) has ever been effective anywhere in lowering birthrates/abortion rates.

    The WHO lists religious/cultural objection as one of many reasons why the need for contraception is being unmet in the developing world. People like you, James and JR don’t advocate solutions. Just excuses to call people “sinful” and turn a blind eye.

  • Larry


    Almost all maternal deaths (99%) occur in developing countries. More than half of these deaths occur in sub-Saharan Africa and almost one third occur in South Asia.

    To avoid maternal deaths, it is also vital to prevent unwanted and too-early pregnancies. All women, including adolescents, need access to contraception, safe abortion services to the full extent of the law, and quality post-abortion care.

  • Kamilla

    I’m not the one calling names or confusing abstinence-only sex Ed for teens with Natural Family Planning. Nor am I the one who can’t be bothered to get the name right or lyung about what NFP teaches.

    And you want to get on your high horse and claim I’m the one hiding behind petty insults?

    If convincing folks like you was my aim in commenting here, I wouldn’t have bothered.

  • JR

    Who said we lost the contraceptive battle? You? As far as I know the Catholic Church eternally rejects artificial contraception for the fact it has no authority to interfere with a gift from God. If 100 % of Catholics defy this law, they knowingly sin and their opinion is of no matter to the Church. So no war was lost, the Church wins on moral correctness, the other side loses by choosing the weak route of self gratification.

  • JR

    Keep it up, Kamilla,
    Your view is more exact and grounded than those who ridicule anything attached to religious beliefs. Hopefully, contraception will give us less of them and more of us.

  • JR

    Teaching teens about contraception, abortion, etc. usually is not effective either. They have to USE the things they pass out with the free milk and lunches. Teens don’t smoke or do drugs because of all this education either, right?

  • Larry

    You are full of crap JR.

    Compare the birthrates and abortion rates in countries with unfettered access to abortion and contraception to those where it is restricted or mostly limited to “natural”, “religious friendly” options. There is a world of difference. You feel the need to make crap up and use nonsense arguments and analogies to avoid the plain truth of the matter. There is no rational supportable argument against use and access to contraception.

    One of the main reasons birthrates are declining in the developed world is access to contraception and abortion. Abstinence and “Natural family planning” is in reality nothing at all.

    Btw, teen smoking and drug use also has been on a steady decline since widespread education on the subject. You are full of crap even on your analogy.

  • Larry

    That is some mighty fine tone trolling.

    Abstinence only and Natural Family planning are practically the same thing in this regard. They amount to doing nothing at all and pretending it is a viable option. They are just there to encourage sanctimonious finger pointing.

  • Larry

    There is absolutely no rational argument against contraception.

    The only reason it is supported is because various churches say so. Even that justification is fairly arbitrary and has no basis even within the religion.

    There is no actual moral consideration being used here. It is merely following a rule and just gainsaying it is important. Following a rule without consideration is not moral thinking.

    “the other side loses by choosing the weak route of self gratification.”

    Because it is far better to point sanctimonious fingers and accuse others of moral weakness than address a real issue. Typical conservative christian nonsense. Never work to solve a problem, always blame others. Never own up to facts on the ground.

  • John

    Unborn lives matter.

  • Larry

    Only if the mother wills it so.

    The reality is, born lives to the poor or those in the developing world are of no concern to most self styled “Christians” here.

  • Kamilla

    I’m not sure that anyone but a few professional Christian bashers still believe that lie.

    I don’t think I need to list all the hospitals, schools, feeding programs, etc. thst prove your wrong. Much less list all the people like Baronness Cox, former deputy Speaker of thenBritis House of Lords who have repeatedly risked life and limb in war zones for the sake of those less fortunate.

    Mrs. Evans ma appreciate your efforts in her defense, but I daresay most of us recognize them for what they are.

  • Layla

    NFP is not just abstinence. It includes cervical mucous, basal temps, cervical positions, as well as other characteristics such as acne, mood, etc. It’s a sophisticated birth control method that is 98% effective when used correctly. Modern NFP, not the antiquated Rhythm Method, is a viable option for many people

    The main thing wrong with this discussion is that no one is taking into account that making it available will not make people use it. Many cultures are anti-contraceptive, not just Christians. We can’t force people to use contraceptive just because we think it is good for them.

  • Pam

    Kamilla, the most commonly cited Christian “heroine” to the poor, Mother Theresa, has fairly recently been exposed as having willfully caused terrible suffering among the poor. She was quite a wicked woman. Christian “charities” have also been shown to transfer dismally small fractions of their input funds to poor recipients in helpful ways.

    However, it doesn’t matter how many “good” people you can cite. There isn’t a shred of proof for what you are claiming, and NFP is just one more con job by crackpot evangelicals like you. The great pushback is upon you and the other supporters of your wicked Christian fiefdom. From now on, present proof for your claims, or hush up.

  • Pam

    No, Layla. NFP is hogwash. Now take off your “mood” ring and go distribute some condoms.

  • Pam

    JR, the link Larry posted above shreds Kamilla’s claims. But don’t let facts stand in the way of your beliefs…

  • Kamilla

    I keep hearing about this alleged expose of Blessed Teresa, but no one ever seems to link to the actual expose. Funny, that.

  • Kamilla

    Right. Hogwash is what helps women achieve pregnancy naturally at higher rates than the (choke) science of ART. Look up Creighton Fertility care if you want the truth.

    Sheesh. Do you actually believe the lies you’re peddling!

  • Pam
  • Pam

    No, Kamilla. The subject was contraception, not increasing pregancy rates through fertility cycle monitoring ( a well understood topic thanks to medical science). Do try to stay on topic rather than weasel out like that.

    And see above re citations about your evil hero, the cruel criminal Teresa, and her awful ways that caused horrible suffering for poor people.

  • Kamilla

    Oh goodness. Silly me for pointing out that the “hogwash” generally known as NFP helps women avoid or achieve pregnancy,neede sing upon why they are using it. I’d actually laugh at your responses if I didn’t suspect you were serious.

    As for retractions? You keep living in that alternate reality of yours and I’m sure, someday, you will talk yourself into believing I actuslly had something to retract. As for the late Mr. Hitchens, I cannot improve in this:


    You’ll have to excuse me now. I have things I’d rather spend my time on tha trying to figure out if you axtualky do believe the fantasies you’ve posted here.

  • Kamilla

    *depending upon why …

  • Kamilla

    There’s no apparently about it, my dear. I am Catholic and embrace all the Church teaches without reservation.

  • Stephen Lewis

    Pam’s right on this one. People like to latch on to a popular figure and then that person’s legend grows whether it’s true or not. That’s exactly what happened with M. Teresa, and then the RC high muckies caved to pressure and moved her toward sainthood. The real picture was mixed but mostly M. Teresa was just exploiting her fame while being a pretty mean batch to some people who were already suffering. The only “studies” that claim otherwise are all from clear vested interests.

    Anyway like a few articles here noted, RC religion is losing followers and likely going to wind down in just a few decades more. Just too many of their priests caught “interfering” with kids and then the brass trying to hush that up. The money for lawsuits is gonna bankrupt them with income from the diminishing flock declining.

    What’s kinda funny in view of that is that Kamilla is Catholic and actively admits it. Way to be on the losing side of history.

  • Kamilla

    It’s a good thing *history* is not what I’m worried about being on the wrong side of.

  • Kellen

    Kamilla you are on the wrong side of more than history. You’re denying facts and reality.The blood drinking sacrifice fantasies like Christianity just don’t pass muster in the internet generation the way they used to now, that things are more open to examination and criticism, and people are asking for evidence. RC is one of the worst of the Christian subdivisions on the sacrifice side; the whole idea of a sacrifice being necessary by or for a god is nutty and false just to get started and the whole Christian religion falls apart from there.