Washington, D.C., October 22, 2012 (LifeSiteNews) – Thousands of Americans in dozens of cities took a stand against the Obama administration’s HHS birth control mandate on Saturday.
Marching at noon local time, people in 145 cities protested the mandate as part of the nationwide Stand Up for Religious Freedom movement. The protesters object to the requirement that all employers, including most religious employers, provide coverage for sterilization, contraception and abortion-causing pills free of charge to their workers.
Organizers say the event was well-attended, with even small-town rallies boasting participation in the hundreds.
Particularly large was the crowd in President Obama’s adopted hometown of Chicago. The local ABC affiliate, WLS-TV, reported that thousands came out for the protest. Carrying signs that read “Vote for Life and Liberty” and “Stop Obama’s HHS Mandate,” the protesters marched from Federal Plaza to Daley Plaza, where they heard speeches by religious and pro-life leaders.
Stand Up Rally Co-Chairman Eric Scheidler served as master of ceremonies for the Chicago event. At one point, he pointed to a group of two dozen abortion supporters protesting the rally who were chanting, “Not the Church, not the State, women must decide their fate.”
“Not the State?” Scheidler fired back, calling their chant “ironic.” Scheidler argued that the fight against the HHS mandate is all about preventing the state from infringing on the rights of individuals to act according to their consciences and their faith.
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In Huntsville, Alabama, former Chief Justice Roy Moore was on hand to lend his support to the effort. He told AL.com that requiring people to fund abortion and birth control goes against the Declaration of Independence, which guarantees both life and liberty. Moore was joined by other pro-life activists, including Dr. Lee Trott, a local veterinarian and member of the Silent No More Awareness Campaign.
Trott shared with the crowd the story of her own abortion experience. She said she regrets her choice, and that it led to a mental breakdown and the breakup of her first marriage. “I procured an abortion here in Huntsville back in 1999,” she said. “I didn’t realize how much it was going to affect me. Since then, I realized I actually paid someone to kill my unborn baby.”
In Des Moines, Iowa, pro-life organizer Jenifer Bowen told WOI-TV that while most rally participants were there for religious reasons, rally leaders are seeing more and more atheists who are upset about being forced to pay up.
“It’s not just that this is going to happen whether or not you agree with it,” said Bowen. “Christian, Catholic, Lutheran, whoever you are, you’re also going to pay for it, and that’s not okay with people.”
In Zanesville, Ohio, the rally drew a crowd of about 450. Organizer Nancy Nicholson said the purpose of the rallies went beyond the pro-life and pro-choice issue, and stretched across religious denominations. She told the Zanesville Times-Recorder their purpose was not to tell people whom to vote for in the upcoming general election, but to urge people to consider their freedoms at the ballot box. “If one of these freedoms can be attacked by the government and removed, then all our freedoms are at risk,” said Nicholson.
She added that non-compliance with the HHS mandate will result in fines of $100 per day per employee, a penalty she worries will force many faithful employers to close their doors.
“The weakest among us, the poorest among us, who are served by these religious-based agencies will be forced to close or will close because they can’t pay the fines, these people will be the most affected,” she said.