U.S. News & World Report warned about sexual anarchy. What’s so interesting about this coverage is that while, you know, some saw the pill as the decline of western civilization and others saw it just merely as...as shoring up American civilization, there...they shared the idea that...that sex outside of marriage was a bad thing. And whether they thought the pill would contribute to it or not contribute to it, both sides, both conservatives and liberals tended to agree that um, women should not be promiscuous.
It was the ultimate double standard, because in the late 1950’s condoms were freely available and you didn’t see social commentators up in arms about how condoms in the 1950’s would increase male promiscuity. So female virtue is held up to a much higher standard.
John Rock was also concerned about morality, but he fervently believed the Pill did not conflict with the tenets of his church.
He said, look, he said, this doesn’t put a barrier between sperm and egg. All it does is artificially create a safe period. And the Catholic church says it’s okay to have intercourse during your safe period. Well, if you take a pill that guarantees you a safe period, what’s the difference? And he thought it was a pretty good argument.
Rock saw himself as the man capable of changing the Vatican’s stance on the Pill. Putting his reputation on the line, in 1963, he published a book called The Time Has Come.
John Rock sync: The...the clerical response to my book has been most gratifying and largely along what...what somebody else called “the Party line,” as expressed by Cardinal Cushing.
John Rock became the Pill’s chief promoter and chief publicist. He became in the sixties the face of the Pill. I mean you can’t open a Good Housekeeping magazine in the 1960’s without seeing his face. So John Rock as a Catholic probably did an enormous amount to encourage women to take the Pill.
Catholic women began to pressure the hierarchy to loosen their position on birth control. When the Vatican established a papal commission to study the Pill in 1964, many believed the Church was about to reverse the doctrine it had held for centuries.
The church could change its discipline, for example, on eating meat on Friday. And you know, you might, if you were a midwesterner and you couldn’t get fresh fish in the 50's, ..... you might be annoyed at all the tuna fish casserole you’d had to consume, but it hadn’t fundamentally changed your life. But if you had struggled with the teaching on contraception, then to have the church change its position is something with many more potential consequences.
By 1965, more than six million women were taking the Pill. American society was beginning to change.