WASHINGTON — Demonstrators gathered on Capitol Hill on Friday afternoon decried the Obama administration's policy to require private health insurance plans to cover contraception as a violation of religious freedom.
The rally was affiliated with more than 100 other demonstrations under the same name taking place across the country. The issue has united multiple faiths, with evangelical, Orthodox Jewish, Roman Catholic and Mormon leaders recently forming networks in every state dedicated to promoting religious liberty, starting with their opposition to the mandate.
Last year, an advisory panel from the Institute of Medicine, which advises the federal government, recommended including birth control on the list of covered services for women. But many faith and political leaders argued that the mandate's exception for religious groups was too narrow.
In response, President Barack Obama offered to soften the rule so that insurers would pay for birth control instead of religious groups. Roman Catholic bishops and others have said that the accommodation, which is still under discussion, doesn't go far enough to protect religious freedom. Lawsuits have been filed in at least eight states.
Jennifer Miller, a vice president at Planned Parenthood in Trenton, said the rallies were being held by extremist groups that have a long history of attacking women's health.
"Simply put, antiwomen's health groups want to take a huge step backward for women's health," Miller wrote in an email.