Reproductive rights, religious freedom activists converge downtown

Reproductive rights, religious freedom activists converge downtown

PORTLAND, Ore. - Two groups with different perspectives on reproductive rights were just footsteps away from one another in downtown Portland Friday.

Both sides, Catholics and Planned Parenthood are seeing their issues dovetail into politics.

Rebekah Andrews was among the 200 people gathered at the federal courthouse to stand up for the right to practice her faith that opposes birth control. Catholics see contraception as intrinsically evil.

"I'm a mother to daughters," Andrews said. "I don't want them to look at me and say, 'Mom, why didn't you stand up?'"

For Andrews, and many in the crowd, the issue goes beyond the current president of the United States and his mandate that even Catholic institutions make birth control available as part of employee health plans.

"It's not about birth control. It isn't. What you choose to do with your life that's your choice," Andrew said. "I'm not here to tell you anything about that, but please extend me the same courtesy."

Just a couple blocks away at the Portland Hilton, condoms adorned the tote bags of those attending Planned Parenthood's national conference, which has drawn about 800 people from all over the country. Their argument is it's not about religious freedom but women's health.

The same gathering honored Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke Thursday night with its first ever "Care No Matter What" award.

Fluke was the target of radio host Rush Limbaugh's inflammatory comments because she told Congress contraception should be paid for in health plans.

"When you get somebody like Rush, who's really over the edge on this, that distinction is extraordinary," said Planned Parenthood's chief operating officer, Lisa David.
Planned Parenthood leaders said attacks like that actually increase their support and make them stronger.

"You don't hope for these things to happen, it's just kind of incredible when they do," David said.

The controversy over the Susan G. Komen organization pulling, then reinstating, funding to Planned Parenthood is certainly in that category. David said the head of Planned Parenthood has reached out to Komen's national office to try and have a conversation but hasn't heard back.