The national debate over birth control arrived on the west steps of the state Capitol on Monday with two rallies featuring competing messages from legislators, activists and faith leaders over whether insurers should be required to cover contraception.

Democratic legislators gathered with officials from Planned Parenthood in a rally they styled as an effort to protect women’s health. Hours later, Republicans assembled to cast the debate in terms of religious liberty as they assailed recently enacted rules by President Barack Obama’s administration that require health insurance companies to cover the full cost of birth control for women.

“The wide-ranging discussion of reproductive rights and women’s health is really kind of a masterful move by Democrats to change the political discourse in their favor,” said state GOP consultant Katy Atkinson.

Obama’s original mandate faced criticism because it required religious-affiliated hospitals and other institutions to cover contraception in employees’ insurance policies — a move contrary to some religious beliefs. After an uproar from the Catholic Church and others, Obama reversed course, mandating that insurance companies supply the contraception instead.

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