Hundreds of Philly area residents protest contraception coverage

    Opponents of the Obama administration’s birth control coverage mandate staged protests across the country Friday.

    In Philadelphia, hundreds joined the “Stand Up for Religious Freedom” rally.

    The federal policy requires almost all employers to cover birth control under worker health-insurance plans — or face a fine. There’s an exception for churches. For religiously affiliated hospitals and universities, the Obama administration offered a compromise requiring insurance companies, not the objecting institutions, to pay for the contraception.

    “The accommodation is an accounting trick,” said Hillsboro, N.J., resident, Patricia Jannuzzi. “When you are a person of faith, you must look with the eyes of your creator and say, ‘Can I abide by this?’ And we cannot. The Catholic Church can not provide this kind of insurance to its employees or participate in it.”

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    Jannuzzi, a Catholic school teacher, helped organize the rally.

    Her group says the mandate is unconstitutional and chose Independence Hall as the backdrop for its symbolism. The rally began with a small group praying the rosary, but the many Roman Catholics in the crowd were joined by other faithful including Philadelphia resident Robert Mansfield, an Episcopalian and an Iraq War veteran.

    “We didn’t travel 7,000 miles to have the government tell us how we are to practice our faith and how we are not to practice our faith,” Mansfield said. “So I’m gravely concerned about it. If they are coming after the Catholics, they’ll be coming after us next.”

    Among the speakers was writer Ashley McGuire, a fellow with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty.

    She says many women are fighting the coverage rule and the opposition includes those of all faiths.

    “People seem to agree you can’t require a Jewish deli to serve pork, buy pork, even if they were getting reimbursed for the pork, say, it would still be unconscionable for them to be providing it in their space,” McGuire said.

    There were a dozen or so counter-protesters.

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