If faced with a medical crisis who would you turn to first– a trained, licensed medical professional or a Catholic bishop? And who would you want advising lawmakers on the kinds of regulations necessary surrounding access to health care–doctors or bishops?
If you answered doctors, well, you are out of luck. That’s because the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops are the ones pushing, and practically writing, every major anti-abortion legislation over the past several years.
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops likes to stay behind the scenes but, in part because their efforts have been largely successful, have found the spotlight. With the GOP-controlled House, they have pushed Republicans to vote 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 passed a bill that would allow hospitals to refuse to perform abortions for women with life-threatening pregnancy complications.
Welcome to the theocracy.
Their lobbying has become so overt, so direct, that the National Organization for Women has called for the bishops conference to lose its tax-exempt status over activities like directing Reps. Bark Stupak (D-Mich.) and Joe Pitts (R-Pa) on the language of the anti-abortion laws they would introduce.
And while the bishops have plenty of Republican allies, it was the wave of conservative Democrats elected in 2008 that catapulted their status from advisers to de facto legislators.
So far the Senate has been able to withstand the onslaught of anti-woman bills drafted by the bishops, but the real test will be the final rules adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services and whether they cover birth control as preventative medicine. If the HHS final rules do not, then we will see just how much power the bishops really have.
Photo from jbradley via flickr.