Religious groups fighting federal 'birth control mandate' gather in Philly
A federal requirement that most businesses offer employees no-cost contraceptive coverage as part of their health plans has been in effect since last summer. But several Pennsylvania lawmakers, religious groups and even some businesses are pushing back.
Health officials say the "birth control mandate" ensures women have access to important preventive services at no cost.
Religious institutions such as churches are exempt from rule, but for-profit businesses are not. It's led Anthony Hahn and several dozen other business owners from around the country to challenge the rule in court.
Hahn, a Mennonite, runs a woodworking company in Lancaster County that employs 950 people. He told a crowd at the Archdiocese of Philadelphia headquarters Friday that having to cover contraceptives goes against his religious values and those of his company.
"It's so heart-wrenching to have to be able to do that, as an American citizen of a country," Hahn said. "First Amendment, freedom of religion — having to fight the government on that."
Hahn says ignoring the mandate and paying the fines would put him out of business. He's still hoping the legal system will intervene. The U.S. Supreme Court is likely to take up the issue.
Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Pitts organized the Philadelphia gathering, bringing in representatives from New Jersey and Tennessee. All vowed to continue fighting the mandate in Congress.
“We’ve never seen anything like this in the United States, especially in modern times, when the coercive power of the law has been used to tell people what they can do and not do with regards to a fundamental tenet of faith,” said U.S. Rep. Chris Smith of New Jersey.