WASHINGTON—About 200 women rallied at Lafayette Square across from the White House Thursday to demand relief from the contraceptive mandate in the Affordable Care Act—otherwise known as Obamacare.
“There’s no war on women, there’s a war on mothers,” said Washington attorney Cynthia Wood in fiery remarks that sparked cheers from the crowd.
Women Speak for Themselves, a grassroots coalition of 40,000 women, organized the rally to coincide with the original start date for the contraceptive mandate, Aug. 1. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) pushed back enforcement of the mandate until Jan. 1 of next year for religious non-profits, but for-profit businesses had to start providing contraceptives—including abortion-inducing drugs like Plan B and Ella—in health insurance plans on Jan. 1 of this year.
“You don’t even have to oppose abortion or contraception to oppose this mandate,” said Laura Fink, a pregnant woman who spoke with her young daughter hugging her leg. “You only have to be an average American who loves the First Amendment and doesn’t like the government suppressing certain Americans’ religious tenets and practices.”
According to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, more than 200 plaintiffs have filed 64 lawsuits against the mandate, which have thus far produced conflicting outcomes. Rally goers expressed confidence that the courts would eventually provide conscience protection, but they want the Obama administration to provide relief immediately.
“I’m tired of our government making it very difficult to stand up for the things that are good and true,” said Mary Ellen Barringer, a consultant for non-profit groups from Maryland. “I can’t send my son on a field trip without filling out all kinds of paperwork, yet teens have access to products and services that lead to all kinds of risky behavior—with no parental consent.”
Helen Alvare, a George Mason University law professor, founded Women Speak for Themselves last year to combat the Obama administration’s belief “that women care more about free birth control than freedom of religion.” Alvare kicked off Thursday’s rally with opening remarks before giving way to a string of speakers, many trained in the medical field.
“As doctors, we know life begins at conception,” said Marguerite Duane, a family physician who teaches a fertility class at Georgetown University. “I challenge each of you to challenge your physicians to help them understand that the HHS mandate is not good for women, or men, or children. It harms their health.”
Some of the attendees went to meet with their representatives in Congress following the rally.
Grazie Pozo Christie, another doctor, made the trip from Miami for the event and delivered her comments in both Spanish and English. She told me she wanted to make sure the Hispanic voice was represented, because “the Latino community has an absence of voices speaking out for our side of the story—the side of religious liberty and authentic femininity.”
Pozo Christie, a member of The Catholic Association advisory board, told the crowd, “Latino immigrants have come to the United States not looking for handouts. … We came here looking for freedoms we’re lacking in our own countries.” She called on the Obama administration to protect those freedoms starting with the first freedom: religious liberty.
The contraceptive mandate in Obamacare has sparked widespread opposition from a variety of groups, including a coalition of Baptists and Catholics—which represents more than 90 million religious Americans—announced last month. Lawmakers in the House and Senate have introduced conscience protection legislation, but neither of the bills has been brought up for a vote.