Demonstrators gathered outside the Federal Building in downtown Pittsburgh Friday as part of a Rally for Religious Freedom to oppose Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) guidelines.
Under the Affordable Health Care Act, most insurance companies will cover women's preventative services, including contraception, without charging a co-pay beginning this August.
Helen Cindrich with People Concerned for the Unborn Child said they had originally obtained a permit for 50-100 people, but that number was surpassed when three buses delivered students from Franciscan University of Steubenville.
Cindrich said she heard the mandate would force insurance companies to cover sterilizations of college women.
"College girls still have a lot more thinking to do before they do something so very, very, extremely drastic," said Cindrich. "And we would want to say 'please think about it. Get your education."
Erin Shields, Director of Communications for Health Care for HHS, said the guidelines allow for FDA-approved forms of contraception only. The FDA does approve of Trans-abdominal Surgical Sterilization, commonly known as getting one's "tubes tied."
Shields said the policy accommodates religious liberty while protecting the health of women.
"The policy ensures that if a woman works for religious employers with objections to providing contraceptive services as part of its health plan, the religious employer will not be required to provide contraception coverage."
Dr. Hans Lessmann, a Republican candidate running for U.S. Representative in Pennsylvania's 14th District said it is difficult to predict the cost of the mandate to his small business.
"Thousands of large companies have been able to lobby for waivers, but as a small businessman I don't have that privilege," said Lessmann. "And many other small businesses don't. So the administration has set up a situation that favors the big guy and squeezes the little guy."
Shields said there is currently no waiver for the requirement to provide preventative services.
According to the White House Press Office, "nearly 99 percent of women" have used contraception and more than half of all women between the ages of 18 and 34 struggle to afford it.
Contraceptives are already widely available, according to the Pro-Life Action League, one of the organizers of the event. And when employer health plans pay for contraceptives, "sterilizations," and "abortion-including" drugs, religious liberty is at stake.
According to the HHS final guidelines will:
·Exempt churches, and other houses of worship, from covering contraception on the basis of religious objections.
·Establish a one year period for religious organizations to transition to the policy
·Require insurance companies to cover contraception if a religious organization chooses not to.
·Not require religious organizations to provide or subsidize the cost of contraception coverage
According to the White House, covering contraception saves money by keeping women healthy and preventing spending on other health services.