Outside Court, Protesters Face Off Over 'Obamacare'

Amid a crowd of Tea Party activists, a supporter of President Obama's health care overhaul displays a sign outside the Supreme Court on Monday. i i

Amid a crowd of Tea Party activists, a supporter of President Obama's health care overhaul displays a sign outside the Supreme Court on Monday. John Rose/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption John Rose/NPR
Amid a crowd of Tea Party activists, a supporter of President Obama's health care overhaul displays a sign outside the Supreme Court on Monday.

Amid a crowd of Tea Party activists, a supporter of President Obama's health care overhaul displays a sign outside the Supreme Court on Monday.

John Rose/NPR

As U.S. Supreme Court justices opened their historic three-day hearing of arguments on President Obama's health care plan, hundreds of protesters from across the country flocked outside the court singing, chanting and arguing with one another.

Supporters and opponents of the law engaged in a sing-song call-and-response debate just in front of the court's towering marble steps.

Listen Live At 8 p.m. Monday: The Supreme Court has wrapped the first day of oral arguments on the fate of the health care law. Tune in tonight for news and analysis from NPR's Nina Totenberg, Julie Rovner, Ari Shapiro and more.

"We love Obamacare!" shouted supporters.

"No, we don't!" responded members of the Tea Party Patriots, one of the most vocal and disapproving groups of the law present at the court Monday.

Sometimes the exchanges became personal. Like when an opponent of the health care law shouted, "Real women buy their own birth control" to marching supporters who emphatically replied, "We are real women."

Others debated the constitutionality of the law, which would require most Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014 or pay a penalty.

Opponents of the law, like Jenny Beth Martin, the co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, say it's an example of government encroaching on individual liberties.

"This is about whether we are going to be in control of our lives, and in charge of the decisions that affect our lives, or whether the government is going to come in and control those decisions," Martin said.

Ken Campbell, a dentist from California who's also a member of the Tea Party Patriots, agrees. Even as a medical professional, he says, he's not comfortable with "the government mandating — just by us merely existing — by us breathing that we have to buy health care."

However, plenty of doctors in favor of the law also stood outside the court. Wearing their stark white lab coats, they chanted: "Protect our care, protect our law."

Some of them, like Cameron Page, weren't always fans of the law. But now he sees greater evils: "You know what makes me more uncomfortable [is] unnecessary brain surgery, or people dying in the ICU [intensive care unit] when they could have just gotten a prescription a couple weeks earlier and stayed healthy."

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