200 to 300 denounce 'contraceptive mandate'
By Joe Beck -- firstname.lastname@example.org
FRONT ROYAL -- A rally led by a Front Royal-based Catholic organization drew 200 to 300 people to the front of the Warren County Courthouse on Friday in protest over parts of President Obama's health care reform law.
The audience listened to eight speakers denounce the law for what they described as "a contraceptive mandate" that requires employers to provide insurance coverage that includes contraception, sterilization and drugs that cause abortions.
Supporters of the law dispute assertions that the law covers abortion-inducing drugs. They contend that the drugs in question are FDA-approved methods of contraception.
The Rev. Peter West, vice president for missions for Human Life International, called the law an assault on freedom of religion. Employers who oppose birth control and abortion for religious reasons have a right to refuse to pay for insurance coverage that offers such drugs, he said.
"Our founding documents recognize that our rights come from God. They are not concessions granted by the government," West said. "Can you imagine Thomas Jefferson supporting Obama's health care plan, which attacks freedom of religion?"
Human Life International, which is headquartered in Front Royal, describes itself as the "world's largest international and pro-life family organization" spanning 100 countries on six continents.
Human Life International organized Friday's rally, which came as the U.S. Supreme Court is preparing for three days of hearings challenging the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act. The court arguments do not directly involve the conflict over women's reproductive rights and religious freedom. Instead, the focus will be on the law's requirement that most Americans obtain medical insurance or receive a financial penalty for failing to do so.
Obama clashed with Catholic leaders over insurance coverage for birth control a few weeks ago. The president agreed to scale back some of the requirements for religious institutions, a compromise that satisfied some Catholic organizations, but did little to placate others.
Mary Stanford, a mother who homeschools her children, told the audience that she also opposed the law as an attack on religious freedom.
"This is not a Catholic issue," she said. "It affects every person in this country who values the freedom to follow their conscience."
Two audience members said they attended the rally because they shared the same concerns as the speakers.
"They're taking away our religious freedom, what we believe in," said Bill Castellan of Front Royal.
Castellan's companion, John Janaro, also of Front Royal, said he hoped the rally, one of more than 140 being held nationally by conservative religious activists, would be "the start of a people's movement that will spark minds and hearts."
"I am amazed I have to be here today in the United States of America to stand up for a fundamental right of the Constitution of the United States," Janaro said.