Yesterday afternoon, the Seventh Circuit allowed Ann Doe, a student at the University of Notre Dame, to participate in the university’s lawsuit against the government, challenging provisions of the Affordable Care Act. If Notre Dame is successful in the case, it will deprive the university’s students, faculty, and staff of health insurance that covers contraception. Ann Doe—along with her fellow student, Jane Doe (also represented by Americans United)—can now stand side-by-side with the government to defend her access to insurance that covers contraceptives.
As I explained in an earlier blog post, Notre Dame sued the government because it objects on religious grounds to signing a one-page form letting its insurance company or the government know that it does not want to provide contraceptive coverage for religious reasons. According to the university, this opt-out “triggered” the insurance company’s provision of contraceptive coverage to Notre Dame students, faculty, and staff—even though the insurance company was legally required to provide contraceptive coverage regardless of the university’s actions. During Notre Dame’s two-year litigation, insurance coverage for women at the university has hung in limbo.
Meanwhile, Ann Doe (who can’t use her real name for fear of retaliation by the university) has struggled, and failed, to get the contraceptive care that she wants and is legally entitled to receive. As a then-employee of Notre Dame, she was told flat-out by the university that she would receive no insurance coverage for contraception. Months later, she received a contraceptive-insurance card in the mail—without warning or explanation— and she struggled to find information about what the card was and how it worked. Now that she is a student, she has repeatedly sought information about whether that insurance coverage is still valid. No administrator has listened to her, or given her any answers.
Now her voice will be heard.