Contraceptive Mandate Focus of Protest
More than 100 people rallied at the federal courthouse in Charlotte Friday in protest of a mandate that requires employers’ health plans to offer coverage for contraceptives. They argue that religious institutions should be exempt from the requirement.
The rally was one of many held across the country.
In November, Belmont Abbey College was one of the first institutions to sue the Obama administration over the provision. More lawsuits have followed. Last month, 43 Catholic groups filed similar lawsuits in one day.
Employers in violation of the mandate face fines of $1,400 for each employee. That upsets rally organizer Brice Griffin.
“It breaches the first amendment establishment clause in drawing its narrow definition of what constitutes religious ministry. For example Catholic charities that feed the hungry or tend to the sick or even Catholic schools would be forced to comply, because the government says they’re not sufficiently religious.”
The Obama administration has attempted to appease critics. First, it exempted churches from the rule, but not schools, hospitals and other employers affiliated with religious groups.
The administration has also offered to let religious affiliated groups opt out, but in those cases require that health insurance companies pay the birth control costs of employees. Neither option has been warmly received.
Protester Charlie Magrow of Charlotte says employees of Catholic organizations have a choice.
“They’re free to get another job.”
Catholic groups contend the requirement is a blow to religious freedom. They believe the government is forcing them violate their religious beliefs that it’s a sin to use contraceptives.
Jon O’Brien argues otherwise. He’s president of Catholics for Choice, and believes the government would in effect be endorsing religion if the Obama administration agreed to the demands of Catholic leaders. He also cites studies that show an overwhelming majority of Catholic women have used contraceptives.
“They’re trying to use the power they have over social services to basically inculcate their failed ideas into the lives of ordinary Americans.”
The contraceptive mandate takes effect in August of 2013.
This article was originally published by WFAE 90.7.