Fertility charting for teen girls

An effort to teach more girls about their own sexual biology has both pro-abstinence folks and feminists up in arms.

The book by Toni Weschler is called “Cycle Savvy: The Smart Teen’s Guide to the Mysteries of Her Body” and it helps girls understand their menstrual cycles and even chart them, a la certain Natural Family Planning methods. Now, to be clear, charting is itself morally neutral. It’s what you do with the knowledge gained that has a moral component. And whatever anyone tells you, NFP used to avoid pregnancy is not 100 percent effective, which is the whole point of recommending it for Catholic married couples.

The reason Weschler and others want to teach charting to teen girls is so that they understand what’s going on. When we took our NFP classes, Melanie kept telling me how she’d wished she’d been taught this basic biology when she was younger just so that she’d understood what was going on in her own body. Based on other conversations with women over the years, I’m fairly certain that a lot of women who otherwise have no intention to have contraceptive sex go on the Pill just because they’re trying to deal with a process they don’t understand based solely on their doctor’s advice.

Now Weschler herself didn’t want the book to be a guide to natural contraception, if you will, even arguing with her co-author brother over how specific to get about the methods for determining peak fertility.

Ultimately, over her brother’s objections, the book wound up detailing how teens can determine their most fertile days — but not telling them when sex carries little pregnancy risk. It does note that there’s a way to use charting for birth control but says that this should only be done by adults and stresses that adolescents should never have unprotected sex.

And that right there is the evidence that this not a Natural Family Planning book. No responsible NFP educator would ever promote the method as a means of birth control nor suggest using “safe sex” nor that teens should be having sex at all. Interestingly, the article does include the results of a recent study that shows fertility charting, aka NFP, can be just “slightly less effective than the pill” when used for pregnancy avoidance.

Opposition from both sides of the political divide

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