The Department of Health and Human Services recently announced it will give preference when allocating grant money to agencies that endorse “natural family planning” and abstinence instead of those that prescribe birth control pills and screen for sexually transmitted diseases.

Yes, boldly taking us back to the days when pioneer women crossed the country via wagon train, heroically pushing out babies in the back of the Conestoga as needed, the DHHS is committed to giving huge amounts of grant money to agencies that counsel their clients to use the rhythm method (responsible for basically anyone born before 1965) and “other strategies.” For those of you who don’t know how the rhythm method works, it’s not about dancing. I won’t go into details except to say it fails 25 percent of the time so you have a 25 percent chance of having a 100 percent baby in nine months.

Why would an agency named after “health” and “human services” want to penalize women seeking reliable birth control?

“It’s bad enough women can vote and go to college. The least we can do is make sure they have as little control over when and how often they get pregnant as possible,” said no one at DHHS but they were probably thinking it.

At stake is $260 million in Title X grant money, so, yes, this is a huge deal. Turns out the shiny new administrator of the purse strings is the former head of a national abstinence education program so we shouldn’t be surprised at this turn of events.

As usual, women are expected to do all the work. Take the fertility awareness method. It’s easy! All you have to do is track your fertility indicators which include your temperature, the amount and appearance of your cervical fluid and the position of your cervix every month.

This sounds difficult because most women aren’t reproductive medicine specialists and, let’s face it, the only thermometer in the house is from the 99 cent bin at Dollar General, so I’m not sure that represents a medically sound strategy.

Also, who knew the cervix moved around? Where does it go? Will you wake up one morning and discover it has migrated to your armpit? If so, well, gross.

Hey, here’s an idea. Why don’t we share all this fun with the menfolk? Why not ask your male partner to do the research and charting and graphing? If he whines, just tell him it’s like keeping fantasy baseball stats over an entire summer only less romantic.

Oh, Department of Health and Human Services, we hear you. Why can’t everything go back the way it was before the pill created a tidal wave of empowered harlots? It’s just so unfair.

The notion of slashing funding to agencies that provide birth control, STD diagnosis and treatment and — here’s a big one — early detection cancer screenings for a population that otherwise would be unable to afford any of those services is reckless and cruel.

Under his eye, indeed.

— Wilmington, North Carolina’s Celia Rivenbark is an NYT-bestselling author and political humor columnist. Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.