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2 - The Pill, the Pope and a Changing Ireland

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  11 May 2023

Mary E. Daly
Affiliation:
University College Dublin
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Summary

The economy grew in the 1960s; access to education expanded, and there was a belated marriage boom. The Pill had a special significance for Ireland, given the absence of other legally permitted forms of reliable contraception. It gave women the initiative with respect to contraception. This was the decade of Vatican II. The Catholic church was wrestling with contraception, in the face of growing non-conformity among Catholic couples. In Ireland information was finally becoming available about the ‘safe period’. Dublin maternity hospitals contending with rising numbers of young mothers with uncontrolled fertility, opened ‘fertility guidance clinics’. Initially they only offered church-approved methods of family planning, but by the mid-sixties they were prescribing the Pill. Irish theologians were active in the emerging debate as to whether the contraceptive pill was compatible with Catholic teaching, and use of the Pill spread quietly in Ireland. Family planning was being discussed on Irish television and in print media, especially by women’s magazines, but hopes of a more liberal future were dashed in 1968 when Humanae Vitae reaffirmed traditional teaching.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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