STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- The Rev. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life in New Dorp, will be rallying on Tuesday morning in Washington, D.C., as the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments about the Obamacare contraceptive mandate.
Planned Parenthood, which has an facility in St. George, has supporters gathered in front of the Supreme Court building protesting in favor of the federal Health and Human Services mandate included in the Affordable Care Act that requires nearly all employers to include contraception for free in employee health plans. Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood, is among rally participants.
The Supreme Court has agreed to take on the contentious issue which has resulted in a number of lawsuits and conflicting lower court rulings nationwide. On Tuesday the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in the cases of Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Woods.
"This is a moment of Biblical proportions," said Fr. Pavone of the pro-life group, explaining that "scripture, and all Christian history are filled with moments of conflict between civil authority and people of faith."
About a dozen pro-life leaders spoke and Sen. Ted Cruz stopped by to lend his support at the rally that went on despite the cold and snow.
"This mandate is very helpful to Planned Parenthood since they're providing a wide range of drugs and services that the government wants to expand access to under Obamacare," Fr. Pavone said. "Obamacare really is a bail out for the abortion industry. We would be surprised if Planned Parenthood was not there to rally the court for this mandate."
Fr. Pavone said the point of the rally is to say to the government, "stop trying to decide what we are going to do in matters of conscience" rather than about contraception.
"The case is about the freedom of a business owner or non-profit group like Priest for Life to do our business, including insure employees according to faith and moral convictions," Fr. Pavone said.
Priests for Life also has a lawsuit against the mandate and that organization's petition for review by the Supreme Court is scheduled to go to conference on Friday. The highest court in the land likely will decide by early next week whether it will take the case, said Robert Muise, co-founder and senior counsel of the American Freedom Law Center which is representing Priests for Life.
Fr. Pavone said that Tuesday's case concerns the rights of for-profit businesses while the Priests for Life case involves the rights of non-profit religious entities. The Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit also has consolidated the case brought by the Archdiocese of Washington and its related institutions together with that of Priests for Life.
Priests for Life has been appealing a U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia ruling in December in favor of Obamacare.