“If you can’t reach them at the pulpit, you go to Congress!”

3 Nov

At a time when we are finally paying attention to the undue influence of lobbyists on the U.S. legislature, my new hero Laura Bassett highlights a particularly abhorrent case: The Catholic Bishops’ War on Women.   In her recent article, she describes how the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) has been behind almost all of the major anti-abortion legislation we have seen in recent years.  We all know that the Catholic Church’s official position is anti-contraception, anti-abortion, etc, and that they aren’t afraid to vocalize it.  However, I was surprised at the extent to which these robed men have entrenched themselves in the political process.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have been.  I mean, where else would anti-choice politicians get medically inaccurate, ideology-laden, human-rights-violating ideas on legislating women’s health?

Quoted in the article, Rep Lois Capps (D-CA) wins the Terrifying Understatement of the Year award when she says that “The bishops carry a lot of clout.”  Not only did they nearly paralyze the Affordable Care Act with their staunch, blind objections to abortion funding (willing to sacrifice near-universal healthcare over funding for one medical procedure–nice), but a higher-up in the USCCB actually had a literal hand in writing the Stupak Amendment.  Bassett does a fantastic job highlighting not only past anti-choice efforts, but also their current influence in the House with acts such as the “Protect Life Act,” the “Abortion Non-Discrimination Act,” and the “Respect for Rights of Conscience Act,”  all aimed at decreasing women’s access to reproductive health care, even when it would save their lives.

I always knew that these conservative bishops didn’t represent my point of view, but the wider stats that Bassett cites reassure me that, in reality, they don’t represent the majority of Catholics.  As this piece points out, the vast (and I’m talking VAST) majority of sexually-active Catholic women use some form of contraception, and only 1 in 5 Catholics believe that abortion should be banned outright.  My question is: why do they have more clout than other organizations arguably representing more Catholics? Or 59,000 feisty nuns?

The biggest reason this article resonated so strongly with me was Bassett’s use of the language of “war on women.”  In the vein of Catharine MacKinnon, Bassett rightfully labels these bishops’ anti-choice efforts as an outright attack on women’s well-being.  MacKinnon asked once “when will opposition to terrorism include the daily terrorism against women that goes on day after day, worldwide?”  I think that’s a relevant question in this case.  Don’t get me wrong–I know that calling a bunch of priests terrorists is an inflammatory rhetorical tactic, but sometimes that’s just how it feels.  Their efforts have already decreased access to healthcare in very alarming ways.  If legislation such as the Protect Life Act passes, women’s life will be endangered–and not in a future-oriented, life-circumstances-can’t-handle-a-child way. (which should be a very serious consideration in itself).  No, these men of God are pushing legislation that will put women in physical, immediate, life-or-death situations that they might have no way out of.  That women’s control over their own health is being reduced to an “issue” that can be played as a political pawn doesn’t merely devalue women.  It threatens our bodies as well as our standing as equal citizens.  And that, to me, is just a sin.

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2 Responses to ““If you can’t reach them at the pulpit, you go to Congress!””

  1. thoroughly modern milli vanilli November 16, 2011 at 4:08 am #

    Dani, you’re great, but I am notttt sure about that graphic….
    $$
    – sam

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