The Knights of Columbus: Crusaders for Discrimination
As an organization that devotes a great deal of attention to women’s reproductive issues, the Knights do not allow women as members.
Anti-Reproductive Rights Activities
“As long as there are Knights of Columbus, [Roe v. Wade] will someday be overturned,” Knights leader Virgil Dechant pledged in 1989.37 The Knights’ opposition to reproductive rights stretches back much farther, however.
Ultrasound Program and Crisis Pregnancy Centers
On the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade in 2009, the Knights of Columbus launched its ultrasound program, which matches funds from the Supreme Council with money from state and local chapters to place ultrasound machines in antichoice crisis pregnancy centers CPCs).54 Since the program’s inception, the Knights have purchased more than 290 machines at a cost of $8.5 million.55 The program’s web page alleges that “up to 90 percent of women considering an abortion choose to have their baby after seeing an ultrasound image,”56 but crisis pregnancy centers are known to rely upon a variety of pressure techniques to prevent women from obtaining abortions. CPCs are the invention of Robert Pearson, who outlined methods to deceive abortion seekers in a widely used manual for starting antiabortion pregnancy centers: avoid answering direct questions about services provided and adopt “dual names”—one to “draw abortion bound women” and one to attract donations from people against abortion.57 Other techniques include displaying graphic films or pictures of fetuses; passing judgment about a woman’s moral character, such as for being pregnant and unmarried; making false claims of offering prenatal care or financial assistance after birth; imposing religious counseling and prayer upon women
regardless of their religious beliefs; and making medically inaccurate claims about the supposed dangers of abortion.58
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For their support for the Church and local communities, as well as for their philanthropic efforts, Pope John Paul II referred to the Order as a “strong right arm of the Church.” In 2012, the Order gave over US$167.5 million directly to charity and performed over 70 million man-hours of voluntary service, with over 413,000 pints of blood donated in 2010. The Order’s insurance program has more than $90 billion of life insurance policies in force, backed up by $19.8 billion in assets, and holds the highest insurance ratings given by A. M. Best and the Insurance Marketplace Standards Association. Within the United States on the national and state level, the Order is active in the political arena lobbying for laws and positions that uphold the Catholic Church’s positions on public policy and social issues.
While the Knights of Columbus support political awareness and activity, United States councils are prohibited by tax laws from engaging in candidate endorsement and partisan political activity due to their non-profit status. Public policy activity is limited to issue-specific campaigns, typically dealing with Catholic family and life issues. The Order has adopted resolutions advocating a Culture of Life, defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman, in defense of religious liberty, and promoting faithful citizenship.