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April 23, 2024

Voice for Choice members attend D.C. rally

By ELI WALLACH | March 27, 2014

Student members of Voice for Choice (VFC) traveled to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday to join thousands of activists from all over the country as they protested the Hobby Lobby contraception case before the Supreme Court this week. The group attended the rally with Planned Parenthood, whose Towson office assisted the group in organizing their trip.

Hobby Lobby is one of many companies who have filed challenges to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement that employers provide health insurance that covers contraception and family planning counseling for their employees. Hobby Lobby, a for-profit, privately owned arts and crafts retail chain, argues that the requirement infringes on the company owners’ religious beliefs and filed the lawsuit along with Conestoga Wood Specialties. Tuesday morning marked the first oral arguments of the case.

VFC chose to participate in the protest of the lawsuit because the club believes strongly in the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act’s contraception provision.

“Birth control is a basic form of healthcare; it should not be denied based on personal ideals,” freshman Vinitha Kumar, president of VFC, wrote in an e-mail to The News-Letter.

Among the arguments that VFC promoted at the protest were that it is not the employer’s role to oversee whether or not employees receive contraceptives, that this may lead to further restrictions on employee health benefits based on employers’ personal beliefs and that the debate on the subject must include more parties than just the state and employers.

“The matter is not just between companies and legislatures. It concerns our whole population — Voice for Choice went to represent students and to understand how this case will affect them,” Kumar wrote.

The protest in D.C. saw participation from groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, NARAL Pro-Choice Maryland and the National Organization for Women. VFC members registered for the rally as a part of Planned Parenthood, who provided group members transportation to and from the capital. Protesters rallied even amidst snowy weather conditions.

“I feel that the protest was successful because we went out, even in the snow, and stood our ground. There were many guest speakers there firing up the crowd and garnering support,” Kumar wrote. “It was amazing to see everyone come together behind one cause. The fact that so many people came out to support a cause means that the protest was successful.”

Sophomore Marni Epstein, one of the students who participated in the protest, felt that members of the Hopkins community should do more to raise their voice on political issues such as the Hobby Lobby contraception case.

“I think it’s time for Hopkins to become a more politically involved school and stand up for what we believe in,” Epstein wrote in an email to The News-Letter.

Epstein also expressed her reasoning for participating in the protest.

“If Hobby Lobby wins under this false belief, what will be next? Right now the case is about contraception, but it’s larger than that,” Epstein wrote. “If my employer doesn’t believe in vaccines on a personal level, should he be allowed to cut vaccines out of all insurance plans for his employees?”

Kumar, who started VFC last semester, worked for weeks with the help of VFC members and Margo Murphy, a volunteer coordinator for Planned Parenthood, to mobilize students to participate in the protest.

This rally marks the largest protest that VFC has participated in thus far. The group’s plans for the rest of the semester include staffing educational booths on the Breezeway and maintaining the group’s relationship with Planned Parenthood through volunteer opportunities.

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