The University of Notre Dame announced recently that it will stop covering birth control in its employee and student health plans citing the Trump administration’s broadening of religious exemptions.
Paying for or supporting the use of contraception is contrary to fundamental Catholic moral teaching. The Obama administration offered Catholic groups an accommodation that would delegate the contraception coverage to a third party, but many, including the University of Notre Dame, sued objecting that the process still left them complicit in the coverage. However, the school had been forced to cover birth control since a Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals judge ruled against them in 2015.
The school told Buzzfeed News Wednesday that employees can still arrange contraceptive coverage from an insurance plan not associated with the university and the letter they sent Friday announcing the change will give those employees time to make “alternative arrangements.”
“The University’s medical plan will continue to allow prescriptions for contraceptive medications to be filled when there is an appropriate medical necessity as shown by a treating physician,” they added. “The use of the medication must be for treating a specific medical condition and not as a means of preventing pregnancy.”
Fr. John Jonkins, president of Notre Dame, released a statement praising Trump’s broadening of the religious exemption when it was initially announced in October.
“The University joined a lawsuit against the previous federal rules – by which the government decreed which institutions were sufficiently religious to be exempted and forced those who were not to sign the HHS waiver – because it believes critical issues of religious freedom were at stake,” Fr. Jenkins said. “For that reason, we welcome this reversal and applaud the attorney general’s statement that ‘except in the narrowest circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law.’”
Birth control coverage for Notre Dame faculty and staff ends December 31st. The coverage ends August 14, 2018 for students.
The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration’s broad exemptions in early October arguing that the new rules violate the Establishment Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution by “authorizing and promoting religiously motivated and other discrimination against women seeking reproductive health care.”
Brigitte Amiri, an attorney with ACLU’s reproductive freedom project, commented on Notre Dame’s decision that “the Trump Administration Policy allows Notre Dame to declare a wholesale exemption and to not even allow their insurance company to provide the coverage, so we anticipated that Notre Dame would be revoking contraception coverage if given the opportunity.”
Amiri added that despite the university’s agreement to provide contraceptives as treatment for medical problems, the move still infringes on womens’ rights.
“No matter where a woman works or goes to school she should have coverage for basic health care services like contraceptives regardless of the purpose used for the contraception,” she said.
The Associated Press reports that two advocacy groups, the National Women's Law Center and Americans United for Separation of Church and State, filed a federal lawsuit in Indiana challenging the Trump administration rule on behalf of five women, including three University of Notre Dame students.