More than 500 people gathered on the steps of the Federal Hall in downtown New York City today to protest the contraceptive coverage in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' mandate under the Affordable Care Act.
Waving flags that read: "I [heart] conscience," the crowd cheered after speeches by Dr. Alveda King, councilman Fernando Cabrera, and Pastor Bill Devlin from Manhattan Bible Church in the Bronx.
"Today we're sending a loud voice to Washington, D.C., saying we do not believe in abortion," said Cabrera, referring to the abortion-inducing drugs that employers would be required to provide under their health insurance. "Do not impose the government's view upon the conscience of the people!"
Priests for Life, a Catholic organization that provides pro-life resources and mobilizes Catholic laity, organized this protest in 140 cities around the country alongside the Alliance Defense Fund and the Becket Fund. They all took place today at 12 p.m. EST today and drew a multi-faith crowd.
As part of President Barack Obama's latest healthcare initiative, the HHS Mandate requires all employers to provide health insurance that includes contraceptives, sterilization, and abortion-inducing drugs in its coverage benefits. If they refuse, employers can possibly face high fees.
Refusing to provide health insurance because of the mandate will make it harder for employers to hire since an employer without health insurance benefits is less attractive. "[What] the mandate does is take away our freedom to decide what kind of coverage we want to have," explained speaker and Princeton grad student Melissa Moschella.
Some protesters say the mandate triumphs individual choice because it does not allow for conscientious exemptions.
"This isn't just about contraceptives or women's health," explained one attendee named Jeff Mazzone, 27. "If the foundation of our personhood is in our conscience, and we don't have to the [freedom] to determine what is good and badâ€¦if that area is violated, what else is sacred?"