FINALLY: CDC’s FABM Numbers Change

They finally did it! After years of citing misleading and inaccurate effectiveness ratings for natural family planning methods, the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) has updated their website, Natural Womanhood announced yesterday.

But is it the change we were hoping for?

Formerly, the CDC cited a methodologically-flawed study which unfairly grouped FABMs with other “natural” methods, including lack of any method at all and the only-occasionally-reliable Rhythm Method. This led the organization to claim a “natural methods” failure rate of 24 percent. As their website is used as a primary resource by a wide swath of authorities from educators to medical professionals, it “officially” perpetuated the myth that natural methods were ineffective.

Happily, the CDC now reports that “fertility awareness-based methods…failure rates vary across the methods.” They provide a figure of 2 percent to 23 percent.

CCL Board of Directors Vice President and FACTS Advisory Council chairman Mike Manhart, PhD, says that while no one cannot be completely sure, he believes the changes “are due to a, effectiveness review study published last August in The Green Journal by Urrutia et al.” (The Green Journal is the publication of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynocologists.)

“Bottom line: the CDC is recognizing — finally — that not all FABMs are created equal,” says Dr. Manhart. “I suspect a big influence on this was the fact that many of the co-authors of the Urrutia review are staunchly pro-contraceptive and have a long-established working relationship with the persons that influence CDC on matters of family planning.  It is a credit to the NFP-only researchers involved that they worked collaboratively and objectively to help others recognize (at least some) FABMS have a level of medical evidence that demonstrates they have a real role to play in family planning options.”

If this is true, we owe a lot to the calm persistence of NFP-only professionals in the face of sometimes infuriating ignorance of the science of fertility. At the same time, public acceptance of natural methods is growing, as evidenced by a wide-reaching petition drive to demand better reporting from the CDC spearheaded last year by Natural Womanhood.

The group admits that their petition was never officially delivered to the CDC as it was sitting 6,000 signatures short of their 20,000-signature goal. But that doesn’t mean it was useless. While it may or may not have gained the attention of the powers that be at the governmental organization, it was instrumental in raising grassroots awareness among laypeople.

Scientific research needed to be the primary mover in pushing this change — after all, effectiveness statistics are about science, not public opinion — but the force of thousands of NFP-friendly voices can likely be credited with helping to sustain the NFP-only researchers through difficult stretches and ensuring that the topic never fell into the background.

CCL wants to thank NFP researchers, Natural Womanhood, every single signatory of the petition and especially those who took the extra step and promoted it on their own channels. Through the grace of God, persistence and love, the Truth can be brought to mainstream healthcare!

— Forest (Hempen) Barnette
Marketing and Communications Associate