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Dueling Downtown Demonstrations

February 23, 2012, 5:55 PM by Perry Groten

Dueling Downtown Demonstrations
SIOUX FALLS, SD - A debate over women's health care emerged in the snowy streets of downtown Sioux Falls Thursday.

The heavy snowfall couldn't obscure the brightly-colored signage on either side of Phillips Avenue.

"I'm out here because I want to protect my religious liberty," Nancy Neff of Sioux Falls said.

"I just want to make sure that people are aware of the things going on," Planned Parenthood volunteer Julia Tibbetts said.

Pro-choice groups rallied in front of the federal courthouse urging lawmakers to protect a woman's access to birth control coverage.

"It's really been slanted on attacks toward women," Tibbetts said.

The pro-life group gathered across the street framed the debate on religious terms.

"I'm a Catholic, and what they and Obama are doing is violating my right to religious freedom," Neff said.

The debate heated up earlier this month when the Obama Administration reversed a policy that no longer requires religious-based organizations to pay for birth control coverage for their employees.

"The concern was being required to pay for it and he compromised so it wasn't something that they would directly have to pay for," Tibbetts said.

"That's just an accounting gimmick, a play on words. What difference does it make if the church provides it or the insurance policy that the church is required to pay for?  The church is paying for it regardless," Neff said.

Two very different positions.

"All of us have the grace of God to stand here and do what's right," Neff said.

Yet willing to peer through the snow to at least gain some insight on the other side of the street.

"That's the only way that we'll progress is being able to talk to each other and see different sides of stories," Tibbetts said.

The Catholics rallying downtown say accepting contraceptive coverage would be a violation of their conscience.  While the Planned Parenthood group says they're concerned about non-religious, private corporations pressuring lawmakers to grant them birth control exemptions, as well.

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