UCF students protest Congress’ effort to fight the birth control mandate (Pic via Anna Eskamani)

A group of University of Central Florida students are continuing their fight against Congress’ efforts to eliminate the Obama administration’s birth control mandate.

Yesterday, several student organizations gathered outside the UCF student union to tout their opposition of any proposal that would restrict access to affordable birth control and, according to event organizers, the groups are now planning to contact Sen. Marco Rubio’s office.

Yesterday’s Mass Rally for action included four student groups from the University of Central Florida (including the National Organization for Women, the College Democrats, the Student Labor Action Project and Voices for Planned Parenthood) who stood in a circle chanting, “Hey Congress, we need our birth control!”

As part of President Obama’s Affordable Care Act, a federal rule requires insurers to cover contraceptives with no co-payments.

Although the rule contains an exemption for religious employers, it has seen fierce opposition from the Republican House majority and the Catholic Church, who argue that the  federal government should not force religiously affiliated institutions to violate the tenets of their faith. Obama unveiled a compromise in which the insurance companies, rather than the religious institutions institutions themselves, will provide employees with contraception coverage. Conservative lawmakers, including Rubio, oppose that compromise.

During its protest, the groups gathered more than 100 signatures on a petition titled “Students Say Yes to Birth Control Access,” which stated: “I support the Obama Administration’s decision to cover birth control without co-pays or deductibles under the Affordable Care Act. AND I support the President standing against the pressure of our opponents who want to deny this benefit to students and employees at religious affiliated colleges and universities.” The petitions will be sent to the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, which will deliver them to the legislators opposing the compromise.

The next steps, according to the vice president of UCF’s College Democrats, are simple. “Today we continue to make phone calls to Sen. Rubio’s office and will continue to educate the student body on this issue,” Anna Eskamani wrote in an email to The Florida Independent.

Earlier this month, Rubio filed the “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” in an attempt to reverse the Obama administration’s birth control mandate. Rubio called the Obama administration’s decision to make contraception more affordable for women a violation of “the conscience rights and religious liberties of our people.”

Critics argue that Rubio’s proposal would could cut off birth control coverage for millions of women who receive it through their health plans.

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