Halfwit History

43 - The Rock Rebound

May 02, 2020 Jonathan & Kiley Season 1 Episode 43
Halfwit History
43 - The Rock Rebound
Chapters
Halfwit History
43 - The Rock Rebound
May 02, 2020 Season 1 Episode 43
Jonathan & Kiley

This week Kiley learns a bit more about where we live when she discovers a forefather of women's bodily autonomy just down the road!

Topic: John Rock and the Birth Control Pill

Music: "Another Day" by The Fisherman.

You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, and visit our website at www.halfwit-history.com!

Reach out, say hello, or suggest a topic at HalfwitPod@gmail.com 

Show Notes Transcript

This week Kiley learns a bit more about where we live when she discovers a forefather of women's bodily autonomy just down the road!

Topic: John Rock and the Birth Control Pill

Music: "Another Day" by The Fisherman.

You can find us on Facebook, Twitter, and visit our website at www.halfwit-history.com!

Reach out, say hello, or suggest a topic at HalfwitPod@gmail.com 

Support the show (https://www.ko-fi.com/halfwithistory)

spk_0:   0:33
Hi. Welcome map with history. I'm Jonathan,

spk_1:   0:35
and I'm Kylie.

spk_0:   0:36
And this is a show where we talk about the upcoming week, but a long time ago

spk_1:   0:40
and sometimes not so long ago

spk_0:   0:43
year. Do you have any updates?

spk_1:   0:46
Um, other than the fact that we postponed our wedding now,

spk_0:   0:51
Yeah. That's a big update. Oh, yeah? Well, all the planning that was happening that may have contributed to our delay in episodes definitely

spk_1:   1:03
contributed to the delay in episodes. Because remember how there was, like, a month where I was calligraphy ing envelopes. Yeah. Yeah, all that hard. Work down the drain?

spk_0:   1:15
Yeah. On the bright side. For listeners, that means that we have more time to get episodes to you.

spk_1:   1:22
Also, more time to wallow in depression. But that's beside

spk_0:   1:25
the point. You, uh anyway, so if you remember from last episode, we mentioned that in order to catch up because we are woefully behind. Ah, we're just gonna do one person per episode. So this week is Kylie's episode. Next week you'll get me, and we're gonna trade off until we're back. Caught up to actually being in this week in history podcast.

spk_1:   1:49
Which is funny because today. You were like I definitely want. Like, we should be caught up by the 52nd episode because that'll be the anniversary or whatever. Yeah, it occurred to me that that means that I have to do an extra solo episode.

spk_0:   2:03
Yes, because 52 means that will both be on and I'm doing the evens Until then. Shame on you. Oh, well, got to do what we gotta do.

spk_1:   2:13
OK, so my topic for today is on March 24th 18 90. John Rock was born in Marlborough, Massachusetts. What? Marlboro? Yes, the Do you have any idea who John Rock might be?

spk_0:   2:32
No. Tell me who

spk_1:   2:33
he was. An American obstetrician and gynecologist who co developed the first birth control pill. O eso like hometown hero. I mean, yes, literally like I have ever into my notes, but, uh, part of the reason that you want to talk about him because he's from Marlborough, which is where we live. So who

spk_0:   2:54
come get out of stalkers?

spk_1:   2:56
I mean, it's a pretty spread out town. So, like narrowing down our actual locale would be a little

spk_0:   3:03
difficult. Please do not challenge listeners. The internet does bad thing.

spk_1:   3:06
This is not a challenge. Please don't. All right, So Dr John Rock was born on March 24th 18 90 he went to the High School of Commerce in Boston and then set his sights on a career in business. After working on a banana plantation in Guatemala and briefly at a Rhode Island engineering firm, Rock realized business wasn't quite for him, and he turned his attention to medicine. Kind of like you deciding that podcasting is your real passion, not engineering.

spk_0:   3:38
Yeah, I can't wait until this pays my bills.

spk_1:   3:42
Let's hope your bosses don't listen.

spk_0:   3:44
Oh, well.

spk_1:   3:44
So he graduated from the Harvard University Medical School in 1918 and then worked at several Boston area women's hospitals before he established his own medical practice. He was raised his entire life as a devout Roman Catholic, and he retained his faith despite his scientific education, which I have heard not being a scientist, that sometimes one of them overrules the other well,

spk_0:   4:08
I also think that it's partially like I know a lot of people who are in science, not necessarily to science. To me in the long run is trying to prove how the world works and how the world works is kind of I'm willing to bet there are some people out there who have a lot of faith and they like science because it's learning about the things that were given to us. Yeah, I don't think there's a disconnect between science and religion. I think there's a disconnect between religion and science. If that makes any sense,

spk_1:   4:42
yes, I Yeah, I see what you mean. Yeah, there's F They're definitely and especially around like certain topics like evolution and birth control. There's a fairly large disconnect, so, but that's beside the point. He was a devout Roman Catholic and a scientist, so he married a woman named Anna Thorndike, and they had five Children together. And then he went into medicine. Rock was a highly regarded obstetrician gynecologist and a groundbreaking infertility specialist, and he devoted most of his career to helping women with fertility problems conceive. He was a pioneer in in vitro fertilization and sperm freezing, which, considering he really worked up his practice in the 19 twenties, was groundbreaking because, like in vitro fertilization and stuff was still kind of like not taboo per se, but like there was there were a lot of issues surrounding it, even like when we were young.

spk_0:   5:34
Yeah, Yeah, that did not cease toe happen.

spk_1:   5:37
Yeah. I mean, it is a lot more accepted now, but like, it's definitely come a very long way. And the fact that he had such a big hand in its development so early on is really interesting. So in the course of his practice, rock witnessed the suffering woman endured from unwanted pregnancies. He had seen collapsed wounds, premature aging and desperation caused by too many males to feed. And presumably he also saw the devastation of back alley abortions. The experiences of his patients had a profound impact on him, and despite the Catholic Church's opposition to contraceptives, he came to support contraception within the confines of marriage. So though he never went as far as to endorse birth control purely as a woman's rate, rock believed in the power of birth control to stem poverty and to prevent medical problems associated with pregnancy and aging. And like that kind of thing, like the more you get pregnant, the older you are, the worse it is for both mother and child. So being able to you know be like my last pregnancy was extremely difficult. I can't have another child is huge. In 1931 Rock put his reputation on the line by signing a petition with 15 other prominent Boston physicians urging the repeal of the Massachusetts law prohibiting the sale of contraceptives. Risking ex communication, he was the only Catholic doctor to make that stand. Oh, yeah, After the Catholic Church approved of the rhythm method in 1936 Rock was the first doctor to open a rhythm clinic in Boston. There he taught Catholic women how to use the only birth control method that was permitted by their church. And for anyone who's not familiar, the rhythm method is essentially tryingto only have sex when you are least likely to conceive, which at this time was a lot more difficult because and like especially likely, like early on, people thought that the time that you were the least like fertile was during your period, which is actually one of the times when you're most fertile, so exact opposite of what you want it. The rhythm of it had a lot of issues then and now, but that's beside the point in the 19 forties, Rock taught at the Harvard Medical School, where he educated his students on birth control, something that was unheard of in medical schools of the time. And in 1949 he co authored a book called Voluntary Parenthood, explaining birth control methods for the general reader. So, like people who don't have a medical degree, could I understand the concept behind planning your family in that kind of thing?

spk_0:   8:03
Family Planning for Dummies

spk_1:   8:04
I mean yet kind of ism. It is offered on these book. Essentially, Dr Rock was the first scientist to fertilized human egg in a test tube in 1944 and among the first to freeze sperm cells for a year without impairing their potency. So leg being able to fertilize an egg after the fact kind of thing.

spk_0:   8:22
Trust me, I pretty much work at a sperm bank. So that's true. Ah yep. And that's not to say I'm there. Frequently I make that is that free sperm. You

spk_1:   8:33
had to clarify that. Yes, there are lots and lots and lots of unknown little Jonathan's running around because Jonathan frequents the sperm bank. Yes, I know you work for refrigeration

spk_0:   8:47
company these Children do not find us using the information provided by Kylie in this episode.

spk_1:   8:52
Oh, no secrets out. So by the time Dr Gregory Pincus, who is the co inventor of the combined oral contraceptive pill, approached rock in the early 19 fifties about participating in the pill trials, rock had also come to believe in the need for world population control. So, like he had seen how desperate people could get and realized that lake. If you can't afford Children, there should be a waiting not have them voluntarily.

spk_0:   9:19
The first thing I think about when you said the words world population control, it was definitely not birth control, but instead eugenics, genocide, you No,

spk_1:   9:32
no, no, no. The prevention of conception rather than termination of life, Ma, No. Oh, well, no. Because it prevents you from unless you want to call an unfertilized egg a baby. We're talking about the prevention of

spk_0:   9:48
consent. I don't think we need to go down this road

spk_1:   9:51
way. Don't need to take this dark and twisty

spk_0:   9:53
path. Take your shovel, Kylie, and get it out of the pit that you're digging and climb on and back up. Here's my hand. Come on.

spk_1:   9:59
Yeah, Okay. So for years, Gregory Goodwin Pincus had been searching for a project that might establish his greatness. He became an instructor in general physiology at Harvard University in 1930 was promoted in 1931 to an assistant professor, which is pretty good accomplishment, cause Harvard doesn't like to promote shots fired. Well, there's a whole current issue going on right now about someone who didn't get 10 year and, like, half the school's rioting about It's just It's very It's very not fun anyway. So in 1934 he was able to produce an in vitro fertilization and rabbit, and in 1936 he published his discoveries after his experiments. So to create the in vitro rabbit baby he had, he had removed the ovum from the mother rabbit and placed it in a solution mixture of sailing in Estrin. Afterwards, he placed this fertilized ovum back into the rabbit. His experiment became known as pinko genesis because other scientists didn't seem to be able to attain the same results when they conducted the experiment themselves, which anyone familiar with, like the scientific community like peer review and like being able to replicate your findings is, like essential. So the fact that they couldn't seem to do it was a fair issue. Sometime between here and 1944 he seems to have been dismissed from Harvard and or left under unhappy terms. It wasn't quite clear, Andi. He's started his own laboratory, apparently in a converted garage that became the Wester Foundation for Experimental Biology in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. Oniy. Yeah. So when Pincus met the feminist crusader Margaret Singer in 1950 at a dinner, she seemed to know that he was the person to convince to work on the development of a birth control pill. She procured funding from the Planned Parenthood Federation of America to begin hormonal contraceptive research. And the general consensus at the time was that such a pill would never work on. And even if it did work, who would test it like, who would you test it on? And how would you test it?

spk_0:   11:57
Sure. We're not gonna like that Answer. Ah,

spk_1:   11:59
well, I don't really get into some of the less savory parts of how some things have been tested in the past,

spk_0:   12:07
so that's good.

spk_1:   12:08
Yeah, I avoided that. So, uh, the other problem be, who would manufacture it? Who would prescribe it? Because 30 states and the federal government still had anti birth control laws on the books so federally illegal, 30 states also had an illegal birth. Control was a non starter at this point. Pincus, however, had little left to lose and was willing to give it a shot. As one of his colleagues put it. Quote, he wasn't afraid to go out on a limb because he didn't have any limb. Oh, yeah, there was nowhere left to go but up. So once Pincus heads settled roughly on the hormone progesterone as the key to his pill, he needed to build the team to do the scientific work, forge alliances with manufacturers, conduct the trials and then, if all went well, read the news of the coming invention, so that might have a chance to be accepted. He already had worked pretty well with men, where Chong, who was a Chinese American reproductive biologist who had come to the Worcester Foundation on a fellowship from Pincus, to learn the technique for in vitro fertilization. So he was a pretty obvious choice. They'd work together, and they worked well together, and they had the same area of interest. But they still needed someone else, someone who would put the patients at ease with the idea of taking a medicine when they weren't ill. In 1952 Pincus settled on John Rock, who was a gynecologist. Respected by his peers and adored by his patients, Rock looks like a family physician from Central Casting in Hollywood. He was tall, slender, silver haired, with a genuine, a gentle smile and a calm, deliberate manner. Even his name, Kim noted strength, solidarity and reliability and rock had one more thing going for him. He was Catholic. When rock treated women for infertility. He would begin by taking a medical history and providing a complete physical exam if the woman wasn't menstruating or if she wasn't menstruating regularly. Rock might order and and Dimitriou biopsy rock was you unusual among fertility specialists at the time because he also asked husbands to have their semen tested because, heaven forbid the problem be with the husband,

spk_0:   14:07
uh, shocker. The swimmers always swim gold medals all around.

spk_1:   14:11
I'm gonna punch you from across it here. So between the woman seeking birth control and those patients who were trying to overcome infertility. Rock came to understand that not only human reproduction but also a good deal about human relations. In the same time, he would see some women who were straining to raise more Children than they could handle and others who were deeply wounded by their inability to get pregnant. Among the woman with Children, many came asking for the only thing they ever heard of that would guarantee an end to their baby making days a hysterectomy, which, for those who don't know that is where they remove the uterus so you can't grow any babies in their

spk_0:   14:45
home or plumbing.

spk_1:   14:47
So demand for fertility treatments exploded in the 19 fifties, but doctors offered little meaningful help. Beginning around 1950 Rock conducted a series of experiments on women struggling with what he called unexplained infertility. So people women who are obviously healthy had no history of problems or, like their family, had no history of infertility, but for some reason couldn't get bring it OK. He suspected that some of the woman were not conceiving because their reproductive systems were not fully developed when a woman was such a condition, did somehow become pregnant, the ensuing pregnancy helped her reproductive system to mature. Mind you, this is all like 19 twenties, while 19 fifties at this point, but there's like 19 fifties theology behind it. There's more scientific things going on in here, then maturity of your

spk_0:   15:31
reproductive organs sounds like a car jumpstart,

spk_1:   15:34
cause it wasn't like teenagers who can get pregnant. It was like people in their late thirties and forties. He couldn't get pregnant or like twenties. And, you know, they're like, generally people who should be able to get pregnant because like they're not too old but couldn't. So to test his theory, he recruited 80 frustrated but valiantly adventuresome women for an experiment in which he would use hormones, progesterone and estrogen the same hormones that Pincus had been studying to create pseudo pregnancies. He confessed to the woman that he had no idea if it would work, but the woman trusted him and figured it was there a shot. So he started the woman on 50 milligrams of progesterone and five milligrams of estrogen, and escalated gradually to 300 milligrams of progesterone and 30 milligrams of estrogen. When the first round of treatments ended, no one was dead and no one had become seriously ill. Which for sciences. Really freaking good. No deaths. Yeah. Um, this was good news. Within months, the news got even better. 13 of the 80 women in rocks Care became pregnant when they'd stop taking the hormones. Oh, like that's not a huge percentage. But like for 13 of those women is ah, complete world changer. So Rock told colleagues that the hormone induced pseudo pregnancies seemed to have got given their bodies a lift and help them to become fertile. Soon, his fellow gynecologists were calling it the Rock rebound. I saw that and I laughed hysterically.

spk_0:   17:00
There's never the episode.

spk_1:   17:02
Oh, there we go. So when Pincus learned of rocks work, he was pleased but not surprised. At the progesterone and estrogen combo, we're having a contraceptive effect. The important thing to Pincus was the plain fact that rocks patients weren't dying. Yeah, here was proof that it was safe to give large doses. Doses of progestin is to women. The problem rocket found was that when taking the hormones they were, the women were often convinced that they were pregnant because the hormones produced many of the same symptoms as pregnancy. The woman became nauseated. Their breast grew larger, more tender, and they stopped menstruating. The one were heartbroken when rock told them that, no, they were not, in fact, pregnant, that the hormones were merely tricking their bodies into thinking at and mimicking pregnancy. Pincus had a theory that their hormone levels would return to normal. Their symptoms would ease, and then they would get their periods. Back in 1952 he approached Iraq about joining his team, working on the contraceptive pill. His suggestion was to have rocks patients be the first human recipients oven Orel Birth control pill. The woman would take Pincus's form of the pill, not rocks, and they would study the studied carefully to make absolutely certain that they weren't ovulating during their pseudo pregnancies. If they still benefited from rocks. Rebound, great. After all, both pills had the same hormones, but that wasn't the point. The point was proving that Pincus's pill would work as an effective contraceptive. In 1955 the team announced successful clinical use of progestin is to prevent ovulation. Innovid, the brand name of the first pill, was approved by the U. S food and drug administration and put on the market in 1957 as a menstrual regulator. So not birth control. Yet in 1960 of it gained approval from the FDA for contraceptive use. And at this point, Rock was 70 years old.

spk_0:   18:49
Oh, boy,

spk_1:   18:49
yeah! Over the next eight years, he campaigned vigorously for the Roman Catholic Church to approve the pill. He published a book titled The Time Has Come. A Catholic Doctors Proposal Toe End the Battle Over Birth Control and was subsequently subsequently featured in the Time magazine and Newsweek and was given a one hour interview on NBC in 1958. Pope Pious, the 12th had declared the use of the pill to treat menstrual disorders wasn't contrary to Catholic morals, but he also didn't really like endorse it. Nevertheless, Rock believed it was only a matter of time before the Catholic Church approved its use as a contraceptive. Unfortunately, in 1968 the papal encyclical Humanae Vitae laid out definitively the Catholic opposition to her motile and all other artificial means of contraception. Rock was profoundly disappointed. Consequently, he withdrew from the church that he had spent his entire life in and pretty much stopped going at all. He became a target of bitter attacks by some who called him a renegade, and he did not succeed in changing Catholic theology. But he stimulated much discussion in and outside of the church. When questioned about the rationale for his battle, he told friends that as a boy of 14 he was told by a Catholic priest in Massachusetts, Quote John, always stick to your conscience, never let anyone else keep it from you, and I mean anyone else. And he didn't smart words. Yeah. When Rock died in New Hampshire at age 94 on December 4th, 1984 he was still bitterly disappointed by the church's refusal to change its position on the pill. Yet despite the church's continued opposition to the pill, a profound change had taken place among Catholic believers. Since the encyclical, millions of Catholics around the world have chosen to follow their own conscience is on the matter of birth control rocks. Views on the pill ones, daring and radical, had become commonplace among the rank and file of the church, although he died feeling that he had failed in his mission, John rocks contribution to the bait on birth control had a profound impact on the lives of countless Catholic woman and really women of all or no faith, because without Rock and Pincus and Chang, women would still be struggling to have a say and when and if they wanted to become pregnant. Wow! And that's John Rock. Cool. I really enjoyed that free sex.

spk_0:   21:08
Yeah, those school.

spk_1:   21:09
It's very much in line with, Like what I studied in grad school and, like where my interests lie, I There are a couple of things that I saw that like After that original trial, Pincus went on Teoh test the birth control in Lake asylums and stuff so, like that's getting into the scary area. But as far as I could tell, Rock wasn't involved in that because, like, I mean, by the time it got approved, he was 70 right? Like he wasn't actively participating in anything. Any worry. So

spk_0:   21:42
here that 70 year olds, you can't participate in nothing anymore.

spk_1:   21:45
That's not what I meant. Not when I miss it all. Heck, Ali Za I saw Beria Peters on Broadway in Hello, Dolly! She's 70 and she was still like dancing and parading around on stage.

spk_0:   21:57
So Sigourney Weaver like,

spk_1:   21:59
Oh, yeah, I forgot about that. Yeah, well, I just watched Thea's the sound Sondheim 90th anniversary celebration thing than your birthday celebration and burned at Peters was the like, last person to perform because they did it like alive. Like because, like, Cove it pandemic quarantine. Um, they did like a leg zoom, essentially, but they like broadcasted and stuff. And Bernadette Peters was lost because, like Peters has been like an insane number of Sondheim productions and like original roles in an insane number of Sondheim productions. And she she's saying she did her song and I'm sitting there the entire time barely listening because I can't get over the fact that this person who I know is 70 years old is full. Lawless and I was dying inside because I'm like, I'm 27 I didn't even look

spk_0:   22:52
that good. I are we on to call the action. Yes, so you can find us on Facebook and Twitter at halfway history. You can email us at half what pot at gmail dot com.

spk_1:   23:06
Yes, send us suggestions, comments, words of support, whatever you know, you feel like sending our way happy thoughts would be great.

spk_0:   23:16
Kylie needs some happy thought. Kylie need lots of happy thoughts to Kylie needs them.

spk_1:   23:22
Yes. Kylie dyed her hair pink. The day after we found out we were postponing our wedding and like, it was the first thing I did. Like that morning, I got up, I showered and I dyed my hair and John John and didn't even put up a fight. I was like, I'm dying my hair And he's like, How can I

spk_0:   23:37
help you deserve it? Let's go.

spk_1:   23:40
It was great. So now my hair is a wonderful pastel pink and I love it.

spk_0:   23:44
Ah, you can visit our website at www dot half wit dash history dot com and want to give a shadow to the fishermen for the use of our theme song. Another day you confined their links in our show notes.

spk_1:   23:57
Yeah. Go check it out.

spk_0:   23:58
We have a Cofie. So if you guys want to send us a tip or something like that, that would be awesome

spk_1:   24:06
for a pity. Pity, Penny. Yes, me pity penny for Kylie.

spk_0:   24:12
So you can find that at k o dash f i dot com forward slash half of history? Yes. On to fund fax? Yes, please. Okey doke. My funfair.

spk_1:   24:23
Oh, yeah. You said you only have one. So you should

spk_0:   24:25
come first. Don't don't reveal the secrets. Hold the current back. Don't part the kimono. Don't part the kimono. So on March 29th of 18 48 Niagara Falls stops flowing for 30 hours due to an ice jam.

spk_1:   24:42
That's a long time.

spk_0:   24:44
That's a lot of ice to get Niagara Falls to stop. Yeah,

spk_1:   24:47
that is a lot of ice. What's yours? On March 23rd 18 83 the Edmonds Act, also known as the Edmunds Anti Polygamy Act, is adopted by the U. S. To suppress polygamy. 1300 met for later imprisoned under

spk_0:   25:02
that act, I'm Yeah, like what would happen if we got married, then someone's like no more straits.

spk_1:   25:12
Oh, well, that's true.

spk_0:   25:13
It's like, Well, we're not gonna not do this. That's

spk_1:   25:16
fair. I was I just thought this was a rather fitting fun fact, considering ah, lot of those. Ah, second and third wise probably could have used a contraceptive bill.

spk_0:   25:26
Okay? I don't know. Well, yeah,

spk_1:   25:35
I'm very out of it,

spk_0:   25:36
so thanks for listening. If

spk_1:   25:38
you're still listening,

spk_0:   25:40
I've been your half with

spk_1:   25:42
and I'm your historian.

spk_0:   25:43
Sometimes way Go