Loading
Thousands join grassroots women's movement opposing HHS mandate
Women protest the Obama administration's contraception mandate. Credit: Women Speak for Themselves.
Women protest the Obama administration's contraception mandate. Credit: Women Speak for Themselves.
By Michelle Bauman
Facebook Twitter Google+ Pinterest Addthis

.- Thousands of women across the country are leading grassroots efforts to make their voices heard in opposition to the federal contraception and sterilization mandate.

The Women Speak for Themselves movement is driven by “things that women are deciding to do on their own,” said Meg McDonnell, who has been assisting the group from early in its existence.

McDonnell told CNA on Sept. 20 that the movement has received “hundreds of e-mails” about women’s efforts to defend religious freedom, including prayer campaigns, local rallies, blog posts, discussions with elected representatives, voter registration drives, billboards and letters to the editor.

The movement began in February, when George Mason law professor Helen Alvaré and former Thomas More Law Center counsel Kim Daniels wrote a letter responding to the controversial federal mandate that requires employers to offer free contraception, sterilization and abortion-causing drugs in their health care plans, regardless of their religious and moral objections.

The open letter asked President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Kathleen Sebelius and members of Congress not to claim to speak for all women in promoting the mandate.

It criticized those who try to “shout down anyone who disagrees” with them by invoking “women’s health,” while ignoring the negative physical and social effects of contraception for women.

“No one speaks for all women on these issues,” the letter said. “Those who purport to do so are simply attempting to deflect attention from the serious religious liberty issues currently at stake.”

Within weeks, the letter was signed by thousands of women of various religious and political backgrounds who oppose the mandate. The letter is currently approaching 34,000 signatures.

What started as a simple letter has become a movement, with the women on the list working to “keep it active,” McDonnell explained. “It’s really them that keep it going.”

As more women signed the letter, she said, they consistently wrote to Alvaré about the issues they were facing and the efforts they were leading in their local communities.

Relief at having an opportunity to speak out and the ability to stand up for their beliefs was a “common theme,” she explained. 

McDonnell attributes the growth of the movement over the last seven months largely to the “woman to woman contact” and the “continual discussion” that is being generated, allowing the conversation to reach a wider audience.

Decades after legalized abortion swept through America, she said, “a lot of women have experienced the negative effects” of the sexual revolution. Seeing that these ideas did not lead to happiness, they now want to “set a better path for younger women.”

The women in the movement hold differing views on contraception, she noted.

“But they stand with us on the religious freedom issue,” she said. “And that’s the key point.”

The group’s website, www.womenspeakforthemselves.com, includes talking points for discussions on the mandate and religious freedom, exploring the “war on women” rhetoric, and whether free contraception is really the best means of promoting women’s equality.

These talking points help to “clarify the dialogue,” McDonnell explained.

Contrary to some reports, she said, opponents of the mandate are “not trying to say that contraception should be outlawed.” Rather, they are advocating a return to policies that allow women to purchase birth control if they choose to do so, while permitting religious groups to follow their moral convictions. 

The movement has also released an online video highlighting the efforts of women to protect religious liberty and promote “a more thoughtful, more complete vision of women’s freedom.”

In addition, a new book called “Breaking Through: Catholic Women Speak For Themselves” (Our Sunday Visit, $16.95) has been published. The book, which is edited by Alvaré, features women speaking “in their own voices” about the issues they face in their careers, as moms and in their faith lives. It also features the stories of how they came to embrace Church teaching in their own lives.
 
McDonnell believes that women will continue to make use of outlets that allow them to speak their opinion in the public square.

Religious freedom is an important ongoing issue that is “not solely related just to this mandate,” she explained.

“Women are smart,” she said. “They’re moms, they’re wives, they’re working in the professional world. They realize that there are greater things ahead for women.”

Tags: Contraception mandate, Religious freedom, Women

Ads by AdsLiveMedia(What's this?)

* The number of messages that can be online is limited. CNA reserves the right to edit messages for content and tone. Comments and opinions expressed by users do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of CNA. CNA will not publish comments with abusive language, insults or links to other pages

RESOURCES »

Ads by Google (What's this?)
Ads by Google

Featured Videos

Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Little Sisters of the Poor press conference in Denver
Family thrilled to see Pope Francis in Istanbul
Syrian Refugee, Sara, 14, Before Meeting Pope
Ebola orphans thousands of children in West Africa
One year after Haiyan: Philippines rebuilds homes, lives
An Indian contribution to the Vatican's Synod on the Family
Christ Cathedral CNA video Sept 2014
Alejandro Bermudez of CNA accepts ice bucket challenge
'The Real Albania,' remembering those who fled
Pope Francis in Albania, "one of the most important visits of the post-communist era in Albania"
Pope Francis greets paralyzed man who risked all to see him
Franciscans on the banks of the Tiber in Rome, working for the New Evangelization
Pilgrimage from Czech Republic to Assisi and Rome for intentions
Testimony of young Indian who met Pope in Korea
Preparations of the Closing Mass of 6th Asian Youth Day
Missionary of Charity, Korea
Testimony of Christian Love during Pope's Visit to Korea
Religious Sisters in South Korea react to Pope Francis kissing a baby
Warm atmosphere during Holy Mass at Daejeon World Cup Stadium
Images inside Pope Francis flight to South Korea
Dec
20

Liturgical Calendar

December 20, 2014

Advent Weekday

All readings:
Today »
This year »

Catholic Daily

Gospel of the Day

Mt 21:23-27

Gospel
Date
12/15/14
12/14/14
12/13/14

Daily Readings


First Reading:: Judg 13: 2-7, 24-25A
Gospel:: Lk 1: 5-25

Saint of the Day

St. Romuald »

Saint
Date
12/15/14

Homily of the Day

Mt 21:23-27

Homily
Date
12/15/14
12/14/14
12/13/14