Hundreds rally in Phila. against birth-control mandate

Mary DeChristopher of South Philadelphia holds a Statue of Liberty on a crucifix she made for the "Stand Up for Religious Freedom" rally on Independence Mall. DeChristopher said she joined the two symbols because "our liberties are being crucified." (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)
Mary DeChristopher of South Philadelphia holds a Statue of Liberty on a crucifix she made for the "Stand Up for Religious Freedom" rally on Independence Mall. DeChristopher said she joined the two symbols because "our liberties are being crucified." (TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer)
Posted: March 24, 2012

Bearing crucifixes, American flags, and signs reading "No to Socialism," about 600 people gathered on Independence Mall on Friday to protest the Obama administration's proposal that all health insurance plans provide coverage for contraception.

"What a way to show support for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness," Steve Bozza, director of the Respect Life office of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia, told the crowd from the speaker's platform as he gestured toward the Liberty Bell.

Sponsored locally by the Pro-Life Union of Southeastern Pennsylvania, Generation Life, and the archdiocese, the rally was one of more than 100 held Friday in cities around the country.

Despite modifications by the White House to its original plan, the rallies assert the policy proposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would force religious institutions that object to contraception, such as Catholic hospitals and universities, to violate their own moral precepts.

The demonstrators were largely middle-aged and Catholic.

"President Obama: Hands Off My Catholic Faith," read one of the signs at the local rally, which began at noon and lasted about 90 minutes.

A blend of piety and traditional patriotism, it began with a singing of "America the Beautiful" and ended with "The Battle Hymn of the Republic."

Joe Deegan, a Warrington, Bucks County, insurance agent, had a sign that asked: "Where's the ACLU? My Liberties are Under Attack!"

Speaker Cathy Ruse of the Family Research Council, a national group that advocates for traditional family values, described herself as a "conscientious objector." She elicited cheers when she told the crowd, "I refuse to play victim in a phony 'war on women' or let the federal government crush my religion."

Not everyone, however, subscribed to the main message.

A young woman who declined to give her name sat on the periphery with a sign that read "Birth Control Saves Lives."

And Helen Evelev of Center City protested the protesters with a sign that read, "Don't push your mythology onto my uterus."

"We're getting some nasty reactions," she said.


Contact David O'Reilly at 215-854-5723 or doreilly@phillynews.com.

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