By Laura Bassett for Huffington Post – 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.
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.
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