That is the provocative title of a Huffington Post piece on the great influence of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops when it comes to women's reproductive lives:
A group of men with no real background in law or medicine, but blessed with a strong personal interest in women’s bodies, have quietly influenced all of the major anti-abortion legislation over the past several years. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops may be one of the quietest, yet most powerful lobbies on Capitol Hill, with political allies that have enabled them to roll back decades of law and precedent.Let me see. Here's this big Guy Religion which does not allow women to become priests and has not allowed women to interpret the doctrine of the church. That doctrine is interpreted by celibate men who then use their interpretations to influence politics in countries world over. And the activity qualifies for a tax-exempt status:
Over the past two years the GOP-controlled House of Representatives has launched one of the most extreme assaults on women's choice the U.S. has seen in decades. Republicans voted twice to slash federal family planning funds for low-income women, moved to prevent women from using their own money to buy insurance plans that cover abortion, introduced legislation that would force women to have ultrasounds before receiving an abortion and, most recently, passed a bill that will allow hospitals to refuse to perform emergency abortions for women with life-threatening pregnancy complications.
But the erosion of women's rights didn't begin with the GOP takeover. President Barack Obama's health care reform law contained some of the most restrictive abortion language seen in decades.
Lift the curtain, and behind the assault was the conference of bishops.
"It is a very effective lobby, unfortunately, and now they have an ally in the Republican majority because both groups find this a means by which to fight women's health issues in general," said Rep. Lois Capps (D-Calif.), a member of the House Pro-Choice Caucus. "The bishops carry a lot of clout."
"We consider the two biggest opponents on the other side the Catholic bishops and National Right to Life," said Donna Crane, policy director of NARAL Pro-Choice America. "They are extremely heavy-handed on this issue."
While the bishops have always been vocal on the issue of choice, they have emerged since the 2009 health care reform debate as one of the most powerful anti-abortion advocates on Capitol Hill.
Now, they are stepping up their attack on women's choice with a new, high-intensity campaign aimed at the latest front in the national anti-abortion battle: birth control. And the opposition is worried that they might have just enough sway over lawmakers to succeed.
The Conference of Catholic Bishops is not technically a lobbying organization -- churches are tax-exempt, and they don't have to disclose publicly how much money they put toward lobbying. According to the IRS, a 501(c)(3) organization like the Conference can speak out on moral issues as much as it wants, but "may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities."
The Catholic clergy's secret weapon is a man named Richard Doerflinger, who dropped out of a doctoral program in theology 31 years ago to work on abortion policy for the USCCB as Deputy Director of the Secretariat for Pro-Life Activities. As the point person on pro-life issues for the bishops, Doerflinger says he has been helping lawmakers write anti-abortion bills behind the scenes for decades, including the Stupak Amendment. In 2008 he was recognized by the Gerald Health Foundation as one of the "greatest heroes of the pro-life movement."