Notre Dame’s Contraceptive Policy Challenged in Court

Three national advocacy groups—the National Women’s Law Center, Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Center for Reproductive Rights—filed suit in late June against the University of Notre Dame and several federal agencies on behalf of the Catholic university’s students and staff. The suit targets Notre Dame’s health plan which, starting in late July, will require members to share the cost of birth control coverage, and also seeks to void the settlement under which the Department of Justice gave Notre Dame and more than 70 other Catholic entities a religious exemption to the Affordable Care Act’s requirement to cover all FDA-approved contraception in their health plans. The suit alleges that this policy was not subjected to the proper regulatory process and, further, no longer affords members “meaningful” contraception coverage because co-pay amounts will be as high as 40 percent for certain methods of birth control and the plan will exclude others altogether. Since Notre Dame obtained the religious exemption to the ACA’s requirement, it has vacillated on the extent to which it will offer birth control coverage, with its president Reverend John Jenkins stating: “While some may criticize [our approach] 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 values.”

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