Pro-abortion groups sue Notre Dame for contraceptive coverage

Pro-choice groups are suing the University of Notre Dame in hopes of forcing the Catholic institution to provide full contraceptive coverage through its health insurance plans.

Going into effect July 1, ND has opted out of providing health coverage for certain birth control methods such as intrauterine devices and emergency contraceptives, citing a religious exemption offered to them when the Trump Administration broadened the religious exemption clause in the Affordable Care Act birth-control mandate to include institutions such as universities last year. 

[RELATED: Notre Dame health plans to stop paying for birth control]

ND was one of the original institutions that pressured the government to broaden the clause.

As a result, federal courts in California and Pennsylvania issued preliminary injunctions to stop the changes from taking effect, but ND claims that the settlement agreement it received from the government allows it to claim a moral exemption.

“I have reached the conclusion that it is best that the University stop the government-funded provision of the range of drugs and services through our third party administrator,” Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame President, wrote in a February letter to faculty and staff.

“While some may criticize the approach above as overly restrictive and others as not restrictive enough, it is our best effort to respect the many considerations at stake in a manner consistent with Catholic principles,” Jenkins affirmed.

[RELATED: Notre Dame changes mind again, will cover some contraceptives]

The lawsuit argues that by removing full-coverage access to certain contraceptives, faculty, staff and students on the university’s health plan will lose “meaningful access” to contraceptives, which the lawsuit alleges violates the “First and Fifth Amendments.” 

“By excluding some methods of contraceptives altogether and imposing cost-sharing on other methods, the University will strip women of the contraceptive coverage guaranteed to them by law and erect financial, administrative, and logistical barriers to contraception,” the suit contends. 

The lawsuit was filed by the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Center for Reproductive Rights, ND student group Irish 4 Reproductive Health, and four women currently enrolled in the school’s health plan.

[RELATED: Petition blasts Notre Dame for ‘contraceptive culture’]

“Not all women can tolerate all forms of contraception,” the lawsuit argues, citing the FDA birth control guide. “Thus, women need insurance coverage of all FDA-approved methods, contraceptive counseling, and education to find the most appropriate method for them.” 

“It’s illegal for the Trump Administration to take away people’s right to contraceptive coverage behind closed doors,” President and CEO of NWLC Fatima Goss Graves stated in a press release. “We are exposing this deceptive tactic and taking the Administration and Notre Dame to court to stop them from chipping away at our right to control our bodies and lives.”

Jenkins, however, has repeatedly pointed out that the mandate in question “was not part of the Affordable Care Act passed by Congress,” but rather was an “administrative decree” that could always be rescinded by the executive branch.

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