(CNS) -- As a nursing student at Syracuse University, Barbara Rose had to study
contraception so that she could instruct women in its use -- something her
deeply held Catholic faith wouldn't let her do.
she consulted her campus chaplain, whose advice was blunt.
counseled me to learn what I had to just to get through the program," Rose
said. "And then he said, 'Don't go into women's health.'"
-- now an experienced nurse practitioner with several specializations -- gladly
defied her chaplain's advice in May 2018 when she helped to open the Gianna
Center of Philadelphia, a women's health care clinic.
in the Mercado Medical Practice at Jeanes Hospital in Northeast Philadelphia,
the center offers general gynecological care that conforms to Catholic teaching
on sexuality and procreation.
have a health care crisis," said Dr. Delia Larrauri, an obstetrician and gynecologist
on staff at the center. "Women have been pushed to contraceptives not only for
reproductive concerns, but for common problems in gynecology, like irregular or
painful periods and abnormal bleeding."
don't deal with the root of the problem; they have many undesirable effects,
and they distort the meaning of sex," she told CatholicPhilly.com, the news outlet
of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia.
Philadelphia Gianna Center is an affiliate of the National Gianna Center for
Women's Health and Fertility, a nonprofit women's health care initiative that
provides natural and ethical options in reproductive and fertility care.
in 2009, the center takes its name from St. Gianna Beretta Molla, the
20th-century Italian pediatrician canonized by St. John Paul II for her heroic
commitment to the unborn.
a uterine fibroma developed during her fourth pregnancy, Molla instructed
physicians to save her child's life, even at the expense of her own. After a
successful delivery via Caesarean section, Molla died of septic peritonitis.
by the Diocese of Metuchen, New Jersey, the National Gianna Center is based in
New Brunswick, where it operates under the auspices of St. Peter's Healthcare
System. The Philadelphia site is the eighth Gianna Center to open in the U.S.
but a more dramatic expansion is planned, according to co-founder Dr. Anne
Nolte, who works at the center's flagship location in New York City.
the center's website, Nolte recently announced that the nonprofit's goal is "to
have a Gianna Center at the service of every diocese by the year 2023," which
marks the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision
that legalized abortion.
Gianna Centers feature two key health services that emerged during the latter
half of the 20th century: the Creighton Model Fertility Care System, known as CrMS,
and Natural Procreative Technology, NaPro.
systematically charts cervical mucus and bleeding changes in a woman's
menstrual cycle to assess fertility and overall reproductive health. NaPro uses
CrMS to monitor hormonal events and to correct issues by working cooperatively
with a woman's natural cycle.
is provided in a manner consistent with the U.S. bishops' "Ethical and
Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services," the sixth edition of
which was released in June 2018.
to the Gianna Center, CrMS allows 98 percent of normally fertile couples to
achieve a pregnancy within six months. The method is 99.5 percent effective in
mucus methods such as CrMS are one of three categories of natural family
planning, or NFP, recognized by the U.S. bishops. The other two are symptom-thermal
methods, which measure basal body temperature as well as cervical mucus; and
sympto-hormonal methods, which use an ovulation predictor kit to detect
reproductive hormones in the urine.
was drawn to CrMS and NaPro while studying at Jefferson (now Sidney Kimmel)
Medical College in Philadelphia. Along with her biology and anatomy texts,
Nolte read "Humanae Vitae," Blessed Paul VI's encyclical on procreation and the
regulation of birth and found herself "deeply influenced."
Paul VI called upon Christian doctors to become experts in the field of the
natural regulation of birth," she said. "I really experienced that as a moral
responsibility -- to become an expert so that I could help couples."
the course of her research, Nolte met Rose, who introduced her to CrMS and
NaPro. A longtime NFP instructor in the Philadelphia Archdiocese, Rose became
certified in both technologies after several disappointing experiences at the
realized there was no authentic Catholic health care," she said. "After six
weeks of post-partum, doctors want to push the pill on you. When you're first
pregnant, they ask, 'Are you going to continue this pregnancy?' I was shocked."
traveled to Omaha, Nebraska, to train at the Pope Paul VI Institute for the
Study of Human Reproduction.
and directed by Dr. Thomas Hilgers, the institute promotes research and
education that support Catholic teaching on reproductive health care. A
clinical professor in obstetrics and gynecology at Creighton University,
Hilgers spearheaded the development of CrMS and NaPro.
promote NFP, Rose and several colleagues formed the Friends of Fertility Care
Philadelphia, which educates women, couples, health care professionals and
clergy in CrMS and NaPro.
the message can be a challenge, especially since many Catholics -- 45 percent,
according to a 2016 Pew Research Center study -- view contraception as morally
acceptable. Another 42 percent do not regard it as a moral issue at all.
with the "rhythm method," a basic means of calculating ovulation, has also stymied
NFP advocates. Nolte admits that the rhythm method can be ineffective, since
most women don't have regular cycles.
the last 50 years, she said, research has more accurately identified the
"window of fertility."
requires couples to commit themselves to the method and to their sexuality --
as it should, said Nolte.
a discipline involved that actually deepens the whole of their married love,"
observed that CrMS and NaPro also represent a more holistic form of health care,
while contraceptives -- which work by using hormones to suppress ovulation and
alter cervical mucus -- derive from a "mechanical" view of the body.
is often broadly promoted as an option for impoverished and marginalized women,
added Larrauri, who has focused on serving low-income and immigrant
without insurance end up going to Planned Parenthood, which is strongly biased
toward contraception and abortion," she said. "I also feel as a doctor to
non-English speaker patients that many of them do not really understand why
they are on these treatments."
that reason, the Gianna Centers make their services available to all women,
regardless of insurance coverage or religious belief. The centers are actively
cultivating long-term benefactors to support their mission.
sad the methods promoted at the centers serve the principles of medicine as a
Paul VI was so right," she said. "Only if you have a real, loving knowledge of
humankind and the person can you really practice medicine in the right way."