Appeals Court Rejects Notre Dame’s Challenge to Contraception Mandate


On Friday, a federal appeals court ruled against the University of Notre Dame’s challenge to the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act, holding that the university hadn’t demonstrated that complying with the exemption process for religiously affiliated nonprofits substantially burdened any religious interests the school had.

The decision by the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court’s refusal to grant Notre Dame’s request for an injunction, which would have allowed Notre Dame to avoid complying with the contraception mandate while its challenge to the constitutionality of the exemption to the mandate for religiously affiliated nonprofits proceeds. Notre Dame is one of a handful of religiously affiliated nonprofits arguing that the self-certification process through which nonprofits identify that they object to providing insurance plans that cover birth control for their students and/or employees substantially burdens their religious rights because it “triggers” outside insurance administrators from making such coverage available.

Friday’s 2-1 decision rejected that claim, noting that the university had already notified the administrator of its employee and student plans that it objected to providing coverage, which meant it was complying with the law and its legal obligations were met. Essentially, the court said, what Notre Dame was asking for was an order blocking the insurance companies from providing that contraception coverage. Judge Richard A. Posner wrote for the majority:

We imagine that what the university wants is an order forbidding Aetna and Meritain to provide any contraceptive coverage to Notre Dame staff or students pending final judgment in the district court. But we can’t issue such an order; neither Aetna nor Meritain is a defendant (the university’s failure to join them as defendants puzzles us), so unless and until they are joined as defendants they can’t be ordered by the district court or by this court to do anything.

While concluding that Notre Dame hadn’t made the case for a preliminary injunction, Judge Posner’s opinion did note that there were some open questions on the constitutionality of the mandate and its exemption, but that a trial on the merits was the appropriate venue to sort those out.

The university could appeal Friday’s decision to the full Seventh Circuit or to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Like this story? Your $10 tax-deductible contribution helps support our research, reporting, and analysis.

Follow Jessica Mason Pieklo on twitter: @hegemommy

  • Rdzkz

    What? Like none of the NotreDame players have girlfriend?. Boycott ND games.

    • P. McCoy

      There needs to be a concerted effort to detanglelize the pernicious influence of the Catholic Church over various spheres of influence, hospitals, orphanageso , levels of educationetc;in this society . I am more convinced than ever that if instead of unfettered freedom of religion, that instead the United States had enacted Penal laws like Great Britain had done, the Catholic Church would not have its powerful influences upon this country. These people would have immigrated to Catholic countries and with the United States, more Protestant oriented,and Fundamentalists could have circumscribed accordingly we would be like Canada where abortion is a done deal and slurs against LGBT people is a hate crime and subsequently dealt with harshly.

  • lady_black

    Let’s get this straight. Nobody’s religion requires that they stop a woman from getting contraceptives from a third party. Even Catholics. If they don’t want to dispense birth control pills in the student health center, I get that. I don’t agree, but I do understand. Trying to keep a third party from dispensing or paying for birth control is inflicting harm on another person’s religious rights. NOT NICE OR LEGAL, Notre Dame.

    • HeilMary1

      Notre Dame hopes nobody remembers provost Fr. James Burtchaell, who made all women’s birth control his business, never mind that he was RAPING THEIR KIDS. He made his fame shaming women who refused to injure themselves and their marriages by breeding fresh victims for him. Notre Dame deserves to have this mother-killing pig’s unholy conflict of interest flung onto its law suit.

      http://articles . latimes . com/1991-12-07/entertainment/ca-613_1_notre-dame