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John Rock
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Doctor
    (March 24, 1890-December 4, 1984)
    Born in Marlborough, Massachusetts
    Obstetrician and gynecologist
    Conducted clinical trials of the first oral contraceptive (1952-55)
    With inventors Gregory Pincus and Min Chueh Chang, considered one of the fathers of the birth control pill
    Wrote 'Voluntary Parenthood' (1949) and 'The Time Has Come: A Catholic Doctor's Proposals to End the Battle Over Birth Control' (1963)
    He opposed admitting women to Harvard Medical School.
    He was a devout Catholic who was decidedly out of step with his church's position on birth control.
    As early as 1931, he was the only Catholic physician to sign a petition calling on the state of Massachusetts to repeal the law banning the sale of contraceptives.
    To get around the Massachusetts ban on contraceptives, he claimed that the clinical trials of the birth control pill were tests of a fertility drug.
    He launched a one-man campaign to gain Vatican approval of the Pill, arguing that it contained the same hormones already present in a woman's reproductive system and therefore qualified as 'natural' birth control.
    When Pope Paul VI officially banned the Pill in the encyclical 'Humanae Vitae' (1968), he was so disappointed that he stopped his habit of attending Mass daily.
    He said he was guided throughout life by the advice he received as a child from his parish priest: 'John, always stick to your conscience. Never let anyone keep it for you.'
    He was considered more sensitive than most male doctors to the feelings and medical needs of women.
    He became a supporter of birth control after volunteering at a Boston charity hospital and seeing the effects of unwanted pregnancies on the patients.
    Before becoming involved with the Pill, he had been a pioneering infertility specialist.
    One reporter wrote that his dignified appearance and impeccable manners made the birth control pill look respectable by association.

Credit: C. Fishel


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