Steve and Eric met during their freshman year of college only to later drift apart. “It was a chance meeting at a friend's barbecue in 1991 where we reconnected,” explains Eric.
“By that time I had left the Church and was living an unchaste life. During the barbecue I attacked the Church. Steve responded charitably that the reason I left the Church was because I did not like what it had to say about the way I was living. Although I laughed off his comment, deep inside it had reached a smoldering ember of faith.” It was the beginning of a personal reawakening.
“Condoms, the diaphragm and the pill had blinded us,” admits Scheidler. Six years later, Eric's wife, April, announced her decision to get off the pill and enroll in a natural family planning (NFP) class.
“It wasn't until April refused to put those chemicals into her body and enrolled us in a NFP course that I began to appreciate the enormous physical, spiritual and psychological dangers of contraception,” explains Eric.
Steve is Steve Habisohn, 32, and Eric is Eric Scheidler, 32, the son of pro-life activist Joe Scheidler. The two founded the GIFT Foundation, dedicated to ending society's love affair with contraception.
“Once God used NFP to open our eyes, we began to understand the sacramental beauty of marriage, its sacredness, as well as its fragility. By the time the NFP course was half complete I had gone to confession and was back in the faith,” relates Eric.
During the spring of 1997 Scheidler decided to seek out his old friend, Steve. As it turned out, Habisohn and his fiancee were also enrolled in an natural family planning class. April's nervousness inspired Steve to come up with a simpler charting method, known as GIFT (God-Intended Fertility Technique).
“Eric was a true God-send,” Habisohn recalls. “The renewal of our friendship came at a point in Eric's life where he was rediscovering his faith and I was struggling to crystallize my vision for the GIFT Foundation. As Eric and I talked it became clear to the two of us that God was calling us to take on a major endeavor. I really felt as though God brought the two of us together to go out and be modern-day apostles of chastity.”
And so, the GIFT Foundation was born. Steve serves as the founder and president, and Eric serves as the executive vice president.
Twelve Myths of Contraception
“Parents need contraception to responsibly plan their families.”
“Contraception protects youth from pregnancy and disease.”
“Contraception reduces the need for abortion.”
So begin the GIFT Foundation's 12 Myths of Contraception.
“It's fascinating to see how God works in people's lives,” Scheidler goes on to say. “Steve and I started out with the idea of using Steve's business expertise to come up with a better way to market NFP. But the more we researched and the more we read, the more we realized the damage contraception was doing to society. Not only that, but we began to see that society's love affair with the pill was based on myths, not facts. Little by little, God brought the two of us to realize that rather than calling us solely to help spread NFP, he was also calling us to expose the real dangers of contraception.”
Using those 12 myths as a blueprint, the GIFT Foundation plans to create programs that will promote life-long chastity. It does this by offering resources to organizations and individuals at cost, launching a nationwide media campaign, producing field manuals, and hosting a web site and national conferences. Its first national conference was held in Schaumburg, Ill., in mid-September.
The conference, titled “Pandora's Pillbox,” featured speakers such as Cardinal Francis George, Dr. Janet Smith and Dr. Chris Kahlenborn.
Pro-life leaders such as Father Frank Pavone and American Life League's Judie Brown have voiced their support for the life-affirming work of the GIFT Foundation.
“In the final analysis, contraception leads to empty playgrounds. No singing. No giggles. Just silence. The GIFT Foundation is working to fill our playgrounds with the happy sounds of innocent children at play; the joyous sounds of life,” said Norma McCorvey, the “Jane Roe” of Roe v. Wade.
“When I first met Steve, I was hesitant. Here was this young man, so eager and relatively new to the whole NFP field, yet so ready to plunge in and change the world,” admits Sue Ek, program coordinator for the Natural Family Planning office and the U.S. headquarters for the Billings Ovulation Method in St. Cloud, Minn.
“I have come to really appreciate Steve and Eric. They are geniune and faithful in their Catholic faith. They are an incredible team and I have no doubt their influence on my generation has the potential to be powerful.”
Continues Ek, “What the GIFT Foundation has done for the Billings Ovulation Method in the United States has been wonderful. They were able to finance two senior trainers from the headquarters of Drs. John and Lyn Billings in Melbourne, Australia, to come to the U.S. to give teacher training sessions. They came in late April and we are already seeing our teaching becoming more authentic. Thanks to the GIFT Foundation, Billings Method teachers in the U.S., Canada and the Virgin Islands are revitalized. To top it off, Steve taped the entire training that took place in Orlando so we can use it in the future as a reference.”
Another tool the GIFT Foundation plans to use to spread the truth are individual GIFT kits. “Each kit,” explains Habisohn, “will be designed for specific recipients. For example, there might be one GIFT kit specifically for doctors, another for priests, one for newlyweds and another for college students.”
Habisohn further explains, “As an organization there is only so much that we can do. We want to build up an army of people who will spread the truth. These materials will change the hearts and minds of individuals. Our hope is that those people, in turn, will share what they have learned with others in their own spheres of influence.”
Habisohn points to what he sees as an eventual spiritual springtime.
“The virtue of chastity in marriage — which includes openly welcoming children and the willingness to freely choose to fast from intercourse for just and loving reasons — will be concrete signs of love between spouses. These will become the identifying marks of tomorrow's Christians. In turn, these Christians will be the ones who will once again make the pagan world take notice and say, ‘See how they love one another.’ Then, God willing, those who have fallen victim to the lies of the culture of death and embraced the contraceptive mentality, will throw off the chemical shackles which bind them, embrace the freedom of chastity and become active loving members in God's universal family.”
For his part, Scheidler says his past makes him eminently qualified to crusade against contraception. He himself has lived the lie. Says Scheidler, “My marriage was affected by it. I left the Church on account of it. I almost lost my faith as a result of it.
I endangered my immortal soul by using it. I was dead. But now I am alive again. I want to help free others who find themselves trapped in the culture of death's contraceptive web of deceit. I will spend the rest of my life breaking up that web.”
Tim Drake writes from St. Cloud, Minnesota