Notre Dame Flip-Flops Again, Will Deny Women Access To Some Forms Of Birth Control

From AU's Wall of Separation blog:


The University of Notre Dame has flip-flopped again: Notre Dame President the Rev. John Jenkins announced this month that university-sponsored health insurance plans for students and staff will stop covering some forms of birth control. The decision will affect more than 17,000 people who rely on the school for health insurance.

That’s yet another reversal in course from the university in less than six months. In November, Notre Dame promised that its plans would continue to provide students and employees with a method for accessing birth control.

A few weeks before that, Notre Dame was one of the first and most prominent organizations to announce it would take advantage of new rules proposed on October 6 by the Trump administration that would allow employers and universities to cite religious beliefs as justification for denying women access to birth control.

Religious freedom is about fairness. It’s not fair for an employer or university to deny women access to crucial healthcare—a benefit guaranteed by law. Stripping insurance coverage for birth control is discrimination, plain and simple.

Americans United has been monitoring this situation closely. In October, AU, joined by the National Women’s Law Center and the law firm Dentons, filed a federal lawsuitShiraef v. Hargan, challenging the Trump rules because they discriminate against women and violate religious freedom. We represented several Notre Dame students whose access to contraception was in jeopardy.

After we filed our lawsuit, Notre Dame reversed course and promised its insurance plans would include birth control. Since our plaintiffs now had access to birth control, AU and the NWLC on February 2 withdrew the case. (Meanwhile, in related lawsuits, federal judges in California and Pennsylvania have blocked the Trump rules from going into effect).

Days after we withdrew the case, Jenkins issued a letter to the Notre Dame community with a new position: While the university will continue to provide coverage for “simple contraceptives (i.e., drugs designed to prevent conception),” it will stop covering some forms of birth control it considers “abortion-inducing.”

It is not immediately clear what forms of birth control Notre Dame will refuse to cover in its plans, but it could include IUDs, the morning-after pill or other long-acting contraceptives—types of FDA-approved birth control that women depend upon.

Notre Dame is supposed to clarify its latest position next month and Americans United will be watching the situation closely. We will continue to fight to ensure our plaintiffs—and all women—have seamless, low-cost access to birth control to protect their health and equality.