The hundreds of Catholic demonstrators who gathered outside the federal courthouse in downtown Madison agree with Democrats on one thing: There is a war against women.
The disagreement is over who is waging it. To the supporters of Pro-Life Wisconsin, an anti-abortion group that opposes abortion in all instances as well as contraception and sex education, America's women are victims of a culture that forces unsafe contraception on them, coerces them into abortions and robs them of their God-given role as mothers.
Pro-Life Wisconsin partnered with Vigil for Life, a Madison-based group that organizes prayer protests at abortion clinics, to hold the protest of the Obama administration's recently announced rule that requires employer-sponsored health insurance plans to cover birth control for women.
The event’s participants displayed a genuine fear of a war against organized religion in the United States. The signs and statements of people in the crowd expressed a sense of victimhood at the hands of American secularism and moral relativism.
Steve Karlin, the development director for Pro-Life Wisconsin, evoked Patrick Henry, the founding father revered by the religious right because of his rejection of a separation of church and state, to explain why the country has gone astray.
“Patrick Henry said ‘Give me liberty or give me death,’” he said. “I think our current administration has decided which one it wants to give us.”
His example: $1 co-pays for abortions through publicly funded health insurance.
“At least Judas got 30 pieces of silver. We’re selling out our souls for $1,” he said.
Although all the speakers at the rally praised Jesus in their remarks, attendees and speakers also justified their position in non-religious terms.
Bishop Robert Morlino of the Diocese of Madison, an outspoken advocate of conservative Catholic tradition who has drawn criticism from more liberal members of the city’s Catholic community, said the pro-contraception agenda was a threat to “natural law,” as well as to many things every American takes for granted, such as Social Security.
“Guarding Social Security means ensuring there’s a population to contribute to it,” he said. “If Social Security is so sacred, that presumes the sacredness of welcoming every human being in to this world.”
The five people I talked to at the event all expressed not only opposition to contraception mandates, but personal abhorrence of the use of birth control.
Tom Glavine, a financial planner (not the retired baseball pitcher) from Stevens Point who was accompanied at the rally by his wife and two young children, contends that the legalization of contraception has had devastating consequences for women and children.
"Since contraception has been legalized, abortion has gone up," he says, before explaining that birth control is a carcinogen on par with cigarettes. "It's not just a religious thing, it's science."
Crystal Buchanan, a 26-year-old missionary at St. Paul's University Center downtown, compared taking birth control to using a steroid that would enhance your athletic ability but damage your heart.
"Sex is beautiful, but what makes it beautiful is the context," she explained. Buchanan, who converted to Catholicism at the age of 20, says she did not even kiss her fiancé until they became engaged, and she is determined to remain chaste until marriage.
When I asked whether she believed the government should enter into the affairs of the citizenry's bedroom, she became pensive.
"Sometimes what goes on in the bedroom affects others," she said.