WASHINGTON, DC — Springtime snow didn’t dampen the spirits of thousands of protesters and dozens of organizations who gathered by the steps of the Supreme Court on Tuesday to speak out against the challenge to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers cover contraceptive methods and counseling. Oral arguments in the case, filed by for-profit companies Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, began on Tuesday morning.
Hobby Lobby and Conestoga argue that complying with Obamacare’s birth control mandate would be a violation of the company owners’ religious beliefs. But women’s rights, public health, and separation of church and state advocates say that a win by Hobby Lobby will set a dangerous precedent, allowing employers to restrict Americans’ health care access based on their personal beliefs. On Tuesday, they rallied in front of the nation’s highest court to make that position known.
“Birth control is not even controversial except for in the minds of a very small — very vocal — but tiny sliver of extremists,” the president of National Organization for Women (NOW), Terry O’Neill, told ThinkProgress at Tuesday’s protest. “It’s absolutely outrageous that the Supreme Court of the United States would seriously be considering allowing bosses to restrict birth control. It’s ridiculous.”
O’Neill noted the case needed little promotion to draw passionate advocates and protesters to the Supreme Court on a cold, snowy day. “Usually to get a big crowd, it’s a lot of organizing, it’s a lot of time. This was organized in a very short period of time, and look at how many people we have here,” she said. “We see the Arab Spring, we see women from all around the world advocating for their rights against huge odds. Women in this country are looking at all of that and saying, yes, we are part of the springtime.”
Gay rights groups also came out to support women’s health, pointing out that companies should not be allowed to violate the law based on their religious beliefs. Others were advocating for the separation of church and state. “I think it’s a very fine line between protecting religious liberty and codifying discrimination, and I don’t want to cross that line,” said Wisconsin native Matt DeStasio.
Religious Americans weren’t shy about voicing their disagreement with Hobby Lobby’s religious liberty arguments. “I’m here because I support Catholics for Choice, and I’m a Catholic and I believe that birth control is a moral good and that we have the right to follow our own consciences when making these decisions,” Meghan Smith told ThinkProgress.
Here was the scene on the steps of the Supreme Court:
All photos in this post were taken by ThinkProgress’ Sy Mukherjee and Mason Atkins.