Mercedes Arzu Wilson is a “fighter for life,” one of the most prominent in the world. She has been part of Vatican delegations at United Nations’ conferences, has written books, has given lectures around the world, has prepared packages of materials and carried them to the post office, and has been a mother and grandmother. We have come to know her personally, and for what she has done for so many around the the world, we are pleased to name her as one of our “Top Ten” people of 2011.
Mercedes, born in Guatemala, now living not far from Washington, D.C., with her husband, an American, is the founder and President of Family for the Americas. Since 1968, her organization has taught millions in over 100 nations and in 20 different languages about Natural Family Planning (NFP), not only by teaching people how to practice it, but also how to themselves become teachers of NFP. Her book Love and Fertility has been translated into 23 languages.
According to Wilson, pro-life approaches that focus strictly on abortion and ignore sex education and contraception will fail because they are missing the root of the problem. According to Wilson, the source is the “corruption of innocence that eventually leads to the devaluation of human life, which is manifested through abortion and other sinful deeds.” By handing out or encouraging the use of condoms and the pill, she said, the schools encourage a mentality that expects sex without procreation. She noted further that two out of three women who obtain abortions were using contraception when they got pregnant. “Planned Parenthood knows that it’s not going to work, so they’re ready to offer the next service, which is induced abortion,” she said.
In recent years, she has become increasingly concerned about the push to have “brain death,” not “heart death,” the new criterion to determine the moment of human death. The concern is that there have been a number of cases where people who appear “brain dead” actually “wake up” again. Mercedes fears that some of the interest in having “brain death” declared the new “standard” of death has a commercial motivation: it would be lucrative to “harvest” the body organs of a person whose body was still living, but who was declared “brain dead.”
In 2005, a message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, Pope John Paul II said that the Church has consistently supported “the practice of transplanting organs from deceased persons.” However, he cautioned that transplants are acceptable only when they are conducted in a manner “so as to guarantee respect for life and for the human person.” The Pope cited his predecessor, Pope Pius XII, who said that “it is for the doctor to give a clear and precise definition of death and of the moment of death.” He encouraged the Pontifical Academy to pursue that task.
“Our main work for the last 10 to 15 years has been training new teachers,” Mercedes says. “We have developed the most comprehensive training manual for training teachers in human sexuality and Natural Family Planning. We do this all over the world. We believe the most useful tools are the simplest materials. We have training manuals and posters, because many times the poor countries don’t have electricity. Our systems of posters teach the whole method for women undergoing every situation of the reproductive life, from fertility to pre-menopause.”
Non-natural or artificial types of birth control are very common in our world, and “Natural Family Planning” is often scorned as “impossible” and “ineffective.” But Mercedes believes the artificial methods not only tend to draw young people away from traditional sexual morality, but also are often physically harmful, dangerous for human health.
“In the US many women are still using the pill, but less, because the media has given some information on the negative side effects and people are getting scared,” Mercedes said. “Young people, however, are still using patches and other forms of contraception, and they are falling into this trap because society continues to lure them into being promiscuous; that is the main problem. In the third world, they are still using the 3-month injections. It does so much harm to the poor. They are given it while mothers’ are breastfeeding their babies. The steroids are going right through the breast milk to the babies and that is a calamity. It causes cancer, heart disease, you name it; the list is interminable. And with the lack of the health facilities in the third world, it is criminal. The pill, IUDs, injections, and the patch are devastating to the poor because they all carry the same steroids, which are known to be toxic and carcinogenic. The World Health Organization in 2005 confirmed that estrogens in birth control methods are carcinogenic of the number one type, which is the most dangerous type of all.
“And then there is family life. A study of the most important work we have ever done confirms that married couples that practice NFP have a lower divorce rate than couples that use contraception. In couples where NFP was practiced, we found a miniscule .2% divorce rate.”