EXCLUSIVE: Catholic Notre Dame SUED for not covering contraceptives, students react

A federal court heard arguments Monday in a student group’s lawsuit against the University of Notre Dame over a lack of contraceptive care in the Catholic school's health insurance plans.

Irish 4 Reproductive Health is suing the University of Notre Dame and the Trump Administration after the university chose to stop providing birth control for student and employee health plans,  WSBT 22 reported. 

Notre Dame is a Catholic institution. The Catholic church teaches against the use of contraceptives. 

Trump’s administration enables any employer to claim a religious or moral exemption to providing such benefits, surpassing the previous mandate by President Barack Obama through the Affordable Care Act, or "Obamacare." 

“The right to birth control coverage without out-of-pocket costs is guaranteed under the contraceptive mandate of the Affordable Care Act, but the University’s decision (and deal with the Trump-Pence Administration) to stop covering all contraceptives creates illegal barriers to access for basic healthcare,” Irish 4 Reproductive Health says on its website FAQ

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“Removing our right to coverage of all FDA-approved methods without an additional out-of-pocket expense also further marginalizes groups that, due to historical circumstances and/or systematic oppression, have fewer resources to pay for coverage out of pocket, such as young people, people of color, and people who identify as LGBTQ+,” the group claims.

Irish 4 Reproductive Health declined further comment to Campus Reform.

While the group is student-led, it categorizes itself as “independent,” bearing no institutional relationship to the University of Notre Dame and receiving no funding from the school.

Irish 4 Reproductive Health holds condom distributions in the Notre Dame community, hopes to provide free emergency pregnancy tests and contraception and works with national groups Catholics for Choice, Planned Parenthood, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, and the National Women’s Law Center.

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“When it comes to basic healthcare, particularly women’s healthcare, it should be a bipartisan issue," University of Notre Dame student Molly Donegan told Campus Reform. "By not offering the most basic forms of sexual education, the University of Notre Dame is depriving its students a way to prevent STDs by failing [to] provide a way for safe sex to occur through the use of condoms and other contraceptives. It’s not even about abortion, which the Catholic Church is firmly against,  it should first and foremost be about the health of all the students." 

"For as forward-thinking [as] Notre Dame tends to be, I feel like they are lagging in this department," Donegan continued. "However, being that they are a PRIVATE not PUBLIC institution makes the matters of the lawsuit trickier.”

Fellow UND student Ashley Hovorka seemed to agree with Donegan.

"Requiring women to pay out of pocket for birth control places severe economic stress on lower and middle-class students and employees of the university which is, in my opinion, highly unethical, as birth control methods are used for a variety of personal and physical reasons, and should be treated as any other prescription drug," she told Campus Reform.

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But not all students are on board with the litigation.

“A Catholic university should hold itself in accord with Catholic teaching, which includes protecting the dignity of human life from birth until natural death," UND student Bea Cuasay explained to Campus Reform. "Supporting birth control, then, is in contradiction of the teachings of the Church. Birth control enables men and women to reduce sex to mere pleasure; each person involved in the coital act becomes objectified." 

"Real love requires real sacrifice," she continued. "The natural end of sex is procreation; thus, birth control allows an escape for those who do not want to take responsibility for their actions.”

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