MELBOURNE, Australia (CNS) – Dr. Evelyn Billings, who with her husband, John, pioneered research that led them to develop a form of natural family planning supported by the Catholic Church, died Feb. 16 after a short illness. She was 95.
The Australian pediatrician joined her physician-husband’s team in 1965 as he was researching a more reliable method to prevent pregnancies than the rhythm method, known as the “calendar” method, which was developed in the 1930s.
By the late 1960s, the research team had established the procedures for identifying fertile days, and teaching centers began to be set up around the world.
The method, known as the Billings ovulation method, allows women to monitor periods of fertility through close examination of naturally occurring physiological signs and use that information to prevent pregnancy or space births.
Methods of natural family planning, or NFP, are approved by the Church as a morally acceptable way for Catholic couples to plan their families.
Evelyn Billings co-wrote “The Billings Method” with medical journalist Ann Westmore in 1980. It has since undergone seven new or revised editions, 16 printings, and has been translated into 22 languages.
According to the World Organization of Ovulation Method Billings, women in more than 100 countries practice the method.
Billings and her husband, who died in 2007, were among 40 founding members named by Blessed John Paul II to the Pontifical Academy for Life in 1994. She was one of just five women.
In 2002, the Billingses were named international Catholic physicians of the year by the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations.
“We don’t talk about abstinence; we talk about fertile time of the cycle as a positive time when couples can get together, discuss things and make decisions whether to welcome a baby or not,” Evelyn Billings said in a 1992 interview.