WASHINGTON—Pro-life activists from across the country were arrested for a third straight day Monday for protesting on restricted space in front of the White House. The protests were sparked by the Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that forces faith organizations to cover birth control and abortion-inducing drugs in the health insurance coverage they offer employees—a part of the Obama administration’s healthcare law that took effect in August.
The arrests are part of a project called ActsFive29, named for the Bible verse that says, “We must obey God rather than men.” The four-day series of events kicked off Saturday afternoon, and will finish with more planned arrests Tuesday afternoon.
Sunday’s activities included a rally that featured speakers Lila Rose, president of Live Action; Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life; and Bryan Fischer, director of issues analysis for the American Family Association, among others. After the rally, 32 people were arrested while peacefully protesting on the sidewalk in front of the White House, many of them kneeling in prayer.
Patrick Mahoney, an organizer of the event and director of the Christian Defense Coalition, said the new HHS rule has taken Christians by surprise, so the church is playing “catch up” to let their voices be heard. He said the four days of activities in front of the White House are only the beginning of the resistance to the mandate. “We’re not an event, we’re a movement,” he said.
Sixty-six persons have been arrested since Saturday on charges of "failure to obey lawful commands." Pro-life pioneer activist Joan Andrews Bell was one of two people who refused to pay the $100 fine to be released from jail.
Many of those arrested are from a group called Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust, a pro-life organization dedicated to activating high school and college students. Kristina Garza, campus outreach director for Survivors, has been arrested all three days after traveling from California to participate. She said the HHS requirement is forcing Christians “to pay for things that violate our religious convictions. We believe that is absolutely wrong.”
Garza said the arrests are “the first step” to sending a message to elected officials and the nation.
Martin Eppard, a Charismatic Episcopal Church priest from Baltimore who was arrested with his wife on Sunday, said he fears the methodical stripping of religious rights in America is like boiling “a frog in a kettle.” He called the overall response of Christians to the mandate “abysmal.”
“We assume the courts will uphold the First Amendment, but we can’t count on it,” Eppard said.