University of Notre Dame Students Intervene in Contraception Fight

On Tuesday night, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Americans United for Separation of Church and State may intervene on behalf of students and staff from the University of Notre Dame in a federal lawsuit challenging the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act.

Attorneys for the university filed a lawsuit last month challenging the portion of the health-care reform law that permits religiously affiliated nonprofits from providing contraceptive coverage in insurance plans so long as those groups allow third-party insurance providers to make that coverage available independently to employees and students. Like the Little Sisters of the Poor, the University of Notre Dame claims that accommodation, and the requirement to self-certify that it does not wish to cover contraceptives, is a violation of the school’s religious liberty.

“In all of the talk about the so-called religious liberty rights of Notre Dame, something has been overlooked: the women who would be hurt,” said Americans United Executive Director Rev. Barry W. Lynn in a statement following the organization filing a motion to intervene. “The university’s leaders are free to preach against birth control, but they shouldn’t have the right to deny necessary medication to anyone.”

In December, a federal judge ruled against Notre Dame, holding the university must comply with the self-certification requirement. The university has done so, but it also has appealed the judge’s decision to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. On February 12, the Seventh Circuit will hear oral arguments on that appeal.

According to Americans United, its successful intervention in the case marks the first time affected women have been able to play a formal role in any of the hundreds of lawsuits challenging the birth control benefit. “This is not some abstract legal debate,” said Ayesha Khan, legal director for the church-state watchdog group, in a statement. “The lack of access to birth control—something that the vast majority of Americans use at some point in their lives—is a hardship that affects real people, every day. Americans United looks forward to giving them a voice in court.”

To date, a total of 102 lawsuits have been filed in federal court challenging the contraception mandate. In March, the Supreme Court will hear arguments in the first of the challenges to reach the nation’s highest court, when it considers whether or not secular, for-profit businesses have religious exercise rights.

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  • AnnSanity

    I really believe it is time for the Government to do away with 501C(3) exemptions for Churches and other religious groups. The special considerations that are built into the filings of 1040s for ministers, and others who work in these institutions, should also be eliminated.
    Those who give to the church should not be concerned about a Tax Deduction since their contributions are to “further the work of the Lord” and they shouldn’t need to be compensated by the government for that.
    The Catholic Church is seeking to impose it’s religious restrictions on employees who do not necessarily share their beliefs. I may have the wrong take on this, but it seems to me that Hobby Lobby, Notre Dame, et al, are penalizing the “Protestant” and other Non-Catholic workers for not sharing their beliefs.
    I am really so over religion it just isn’t funny.

    • dagobarbz

      I completely agree with you. If Catholic organizations are going to cater to people who do not share their religious views, they should respect those people and not try to jam their toxic misogyny down their throats.

    • sTv0

      “I am really so over religion it just isn’t funny.” Yay! So am I! A recovering Catholic anti-theist atheist secular humanist. :)

    • Ally

      I agree, but it’s not just Catholics that are against contraception. There are some protestant churches that are against contraception too. One church that I no longer go to was preaching against contraception back in the early 1990’s.

    • Amber B

      I work for a church and my boss the pastor minds his own damn business. mainly because he himself wasn’t exactly a saint as a youth and knows full well that people aren’t perfect and that it isn’t his place to judge but his job to help get them on the right track.

  • friv 2 friv 3 friv 4

    I completely agree with you…