With New Birth Control Rules, Notre Dame Could Opt Out of Covering Contraception

Oct 11, 2017

The Trump administration’s new rules on birth control coverage — which roll back a requirement stating employers must cover birth control— could mean the University of Notre Dame and other Indiana employers might stop covering contraceptives as part of their health plans.

A provision tied to the Affordable Care Act stated employer-provided insurance plans cover certain “preventative services,” including contraceptive care. Last week the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said employers could opt out of that requirement on the basis of religious or moral objections.

University of Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins is applauding the policy change, saying in a statement it reinforces religious freedom.

A legal battle over the changes is already brewing.

Notre Dame is one of several organizations that filed a legal challenge to the Obama-era birth control coverage mandate, arguing it shouldn’t have to provide contraception because it goes against the university’s religious beliefs.

D.C.-based nonprofit Americans United For Separation of Church and State is representing two Notre Dame students opposing the university’s case, which remains caught up in the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The nonprofit’s legal director Richard B. Katskee says his organization also plans to challenge Trump’s new policy, which broadens coverage exemptions for religious and moral reasons.

“Religious freedom is the right to believe or not, to practice your faith or not as you see fit,” Katskee says. “It’s not the right to use the government to impose your beliefs on someone else. That’s religious discrimination.”

While Trump’s new policy was effective immediately, Katskee says the changes could be halted through the courts.

A Notre Dame student is also part of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit challenging the changes. Kate Rochat says she’s worried about what she’ll do if the university moves forward with dropping its coverage of birth control for students and employees.

“While I respect their religious ideology, there’s a point at which … students are unable to access basic healthcare because of their university’s religion [and] there’s an issue with private rights,” Rochat says.

Rochat says other Notre Dame students protested the changes outside of the campus’ main building Tuesday.

This story originally appeared on WFIU News.