Notre Dame students sue school, Trump administration over birth control


Students at the University of Notre Dame filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the educational institution and the Trump administration after the school dropped some of its insurance coverage for birth control.

The student group that filed the suit says an October 2017 settlement between the school and the Trump administration is unlawful, and further alleges that the university is in violation of terms under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that requires employees to be provided with health insurance policies that offer contraception and sterilization access. 


“By charging people co-pays and deductibles they are violating the law. They have no right to do that under the ACA,” Michelle Banker, a senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center, which is representing Notre Dame student group and plaintiff Irish 4 Reproductive Health, told the Indy Star. “By interfering with people’s ability to use birth control, they’re interfering with people’s rights to make decisions about their bodies.”

The suit arrives months after the Indiana school decided to drop some coverage from its health insurance plan. In doing so, it cited its status as a school founded by a Roman Catholic religious order. Catholic teaching prohibits most forms of birth control.

Under the new rules established by Notre Dame, people covered by the school would no longer be provided access to intra-uterine devices (IUDs) and emergency contraceptives, which were previously covered through the institution.

The move was a reversal for Notre Dame, which initially said employees and staff would not lose any forms of birth control coverage, according to the IndyStar.

While those covered by the school will continue to have access to some forms of contraception such as birth control pills, women will be required to pay copays.

In response to the suit, school officials are pointing to a letter that Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins wrote announcing the university’s reversal in February. 

{mosads}“We must be unwavering in our fidelity to our Catholic mission at Notre Dame, while we recognize that among the values in our Catholic tradition is a respect for other religious traditions and the conscientious decisions of members of our community,” he writes. “A tension exists between establishing policies in accord with Catholic teaching and respecting the religious traditions and decisions of the many members of our community.”                 

In the conclusion of his letter, Jenkins also explained why Notre Dame would at least partially provide contraceptives even it not permitted to do so by way of the October settlement. 

“Having been required to provide access to contraceptives for several years, we now take account of the fact that some of those enrolled in our health plans—an increasingly diverse group—have come to rely on access to contraceptives through enrollment in our plans,” the letter reads. “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.” 

“It’s surely fishy,” Banker continued to say of the reversal. “What they have done is they have entered into a settlement agreement with the Trump administration and they claim that this agreement gives them carte blanche to deny birth control coverage.”



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