Double Standards

From the Family Foundations archives


We had a scare last summer.

It had been a stressful run-up to a road trip that was doing triple duty: travel writing, professional conference and family vacation. My cycle started just as we left, and — of course! — we forgot the thermometer. We figured we’d be home by the time it mattered, so we let it go. We followed Phase I guidelines…

And had a Day 6 peak.

Now, let me be clear: Although we’ve prayerfully discerned a need to focus at present on the children already given us, baby fever is my constant companion. Even so, until my next cycle began, a marquee in my brain flashed: What will people say?

We are well known in our community because my husband works with the media and we lead music t the largest parish in the diocese. We’ve been open. Everyone — and I mean everyone — knows we practice NFP.

If we were to have an unplanned pregnancy, I was sure NFP would get a great big black eye in our community.

Shortly after that cycle ended, though, two women I knew did have unplanned pregnancies. Neither of them used NFP; one was on the NuvaRing.

Then the CDC published new recommendations about alcohol consumption for women of childbearing age, based in part upon this statistic: 50 percent of pregnancies are unplanned.

I let that sink in: If 50 percent of pregnancies are unplanned, and 62 percent of American women are using some form of family planning (only an estimated 1.5 percent of them NFP), then clearly, there are many family planning failures (medical term, not mine!) other than those blamed on NFP.

Nobody bats an eye when contraceptives fail, but any pregnancy while using NFP is regarded as proof that it’s nothing more than “Catholic roulette.”

Of all the idols our culture has erected, sex and contraception are enshrined most blindly. The danger posed by money and power is acknowledged in editorials and entertainment, but sex is just “that thing the Catholic Church has a hang-up about.” We’re not allowed, under any circumstances, to question the wisdom of contraceptive use. In 2015, when a study linked lower-level pills to a higher risk of blood clots, every report hastened to add, “But that doesn’t mean you should stop taking them!” It was as if being able to have sex without getting pregnant was more important than the health of women themselves.

Into this world of blind double standards, we are sent to promote natural family planning. It’s enough to make me feel both angry and overwhelmed.

But it also makes me realize that if we are to be successful in our efforts, there are two things we must do. First, we need to stop feeling like we have to apologize for NFP. It really is as reliable as its competitors.

On the other hand, we have to quiet taking it all so personally. Getting judgmental and angry does no good; we end up shooting ourselves in the foot by oversimplifying issues that are exceptionally nuanced. We must give ourselves some emotional distance and learn to use those facts that bear up under hostile scrutiny — and only those facts. The rest, we have to learn to let go.

Maybe we’ll never succeed in turning the culture around. In that case, we can take comfort in the words of Saint Teresa of Calcutta: “God has not called me to be successful; He has called me to be faithful.”

— Kathleen M. Basi and her husband, Christian, are CCL teachers in Columbia, Missouri where they are raising four kids. Read more of Kate’s reflections on faith and family at

CCL’s award-winning Family Foundations is the only NFP magazine in the United States and is a great source of support. Visit here to learn more.