About 100 people protested the Obama administration's birth control insurance mandate Friday, calling it an assault on religious freedom, outside Mellon Square, Downtown.
The protest was part of a nationwide day of protests, planned for 164 cities, titled "Stand Up for Religious Freedom." The events were organized by the Pro-Life Action League and Citizens for a Pro-Life Society. Mainly Catholics protested, although some cities also had leaders of other religions.
A range of anti-abortion activists addressed the crowd. Brian Donnelly, a pediatrician from Cranberry, told those gathered, "The administration believes they can win this battle against the Catholic church. What do you say?" The crowd responded with a cry of "No."
The Rev. John Patterson of Monroeville, a priest in the Orthodox Anglican Church of America, delivered an opening prayer asking for God's aid with pro-abortion rights officials.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services ruled last year that all health insurance plans must provide birth control under the preventive services required by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare.
When religious groups protested the move, the Obama administration announced a compromise in February in which the insurance company, not employers such as Catholic universities or hospitals, would pay for the birth control.
Protesters were not satisfied. "There is no compromise in this area," said Steve Roper, 71, a retired consultant from Finleyville.
The crowd saw the mandate as a violation of the Constitution's protection of religious freedom.
"This is the largest assault on religious liberty since 1789," said Joe Tumolo, 20, of Indiana Township and a student at Fordham University in New York.
The local organizer of the protest, Bob Newman, 83, a retired food salesman from Upper St. Clair, said he organized it because of his friendship with Joe Scheidler, National Director of the Pro-Life Action League.
"I just felt indebted to him. He taught me everything I know," Mr. Newman said. "I'm very pleased with the number of people that came out."
Peter Sullivan: firstname.lastname@example.org or 412-263-1939. First Published June 9, 2012 1:00 AM