BACKGROUND: The Catholic Church oversees the nation's largest group of not-for-profit health care facilities, and in certain areas a Catholic hospital is the only hospital available. Recently, Catholic hospitals' provision of health care services to women in the areas of reproductive procedures has come under scrutiny. PURPOSE: This article examines the role of Catholic sister nurses in health policy for women. METHODS: Using historical analysis, this article focuses on the tensions between Catholic religious priests and sister nurses over access to health care. DISCUSSION: A historical examination of Catholic hospitals' influence on health policy offers a vehicle to contemplate the role that religion plays in the area of women's health. CONCLUSION: Catholic sister nurses used the Catholic Church's organizational power to influence health policy that affected their hospitals. However, they exercised due restraint in their advocacy efforts, always having to be mindful of ecclesiastical barriers they could not abridge, particularly those that pertained to reproduction. This has significantly affected health policy for women.