The birth control pill was unstoppable in the 1960s

Dr. John Rock, one of the developers of the birth control pill, explains how it works in 1964.

Legal or not, there was no turning back once it was approved

Dr. John Rock, advocate for the birth control pill

3 years ago
Duration 2:22
This Hour Has Seven Days airs the first part of a 1964 interview with Dr. John Rock, developer of the birth control pill.

After his efforts developing the birth control pill in the 1950s along with Dr. Gregory Pincus and Dr. Carl Djerassi, Dr. John Rock's work wasn't done.

"Do you automatically become pregnant if you forget to take a pill?" asked interviewer Katie Johnson. "I've heard that." (CBC Archives/This Hour Has Seven Days)

The oral contraceptive was a revolutionary development, giving women more control over their fertility than any method before it.

But four years later, Rock had become one of the pill's most prominent public advocates.

On Oct. 11, 1964, he was a guest on the second episode of the CBC-TV current affairs program This Hour Has Seven Days.

Nervous laughter

"If taken as it should be ... it will stop ovulation 100 per cent," Rock told the CBC's Katie Johnson.

Johnson wondered what would happen in the event a woman forgot to take the pill.

"Do you automatically become pregnant if you forget to take a pill?" she asked. "I've heard that."

"It requires more than the cessation of the pill to become pregnant," replied the 74-year-old Rock, smoking a pipe.

The studio audience could be heard nervously laughing. Frank discussions of sexuality, reproduction and birth control were not common on television at the time.

Rock was a guest on the same show the following week for a longer conversation about the pill and the Catholic Church's stance on birth control.

The birth control pill and students

3 years ago
Duration 2:31
Should information on the birth control pill be available on a university campus in 1967?

Three years later, it was still against the Criminal Code of Canada for anyone to disseminate information on birth control — a law that had been on the books since 1892, though rarely enforced by the 1960s. 

"I think the law is absolutely ridiculous," said a university student in 1967. Until 1969 it was illegal to distribute birth control information in Canada. (CBC Archives/TBA)

But in September 1967 the student union at the University of Toronto voted to distribute such information to first-year students.

That got the attention of CBC-TV's current affairs program TBA, which sent a reporter to the campus to ask female students if they supported the decision.

'Co-eds' in favour

"I think the morals have changed from the time of this law and I think it should be updated," said one student.

"[The student union] should send out this kind of information and give these kinds of things out to girls at the university if they want it," said another. 

"If a student is going to use birth control pills ... and is going to have an affair, it's better they get the information than conceiving a child," said a third young woman.

The law was scrapped in 1969.