Federal Court Mandates Notre Dame Must Cover Birth Control

Despite protests from the Catholic university, a federal appeals court has ordered the University of Notre Dame to cover the costs of birth control for its students and faculty.

Seeking exemption from a provision in the Affordable Care Act that states that all plans in the Health Insurance Marketplace must cover contraceptive methods and counseling for all women, the University of Notre Dame argued that such a provision forces the university to violate Catholic doctrine, which disallows most forms of contraception.

In a 2-1 verdict, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Affordable Care Act does not force Notre Dame to violate its religious beliefs, as a compromise offered by the Obama administration allows insurance plan administrators to step in and provide coverage for employers with religious objections to one or more forms of contraception, thus allowing the university to avoid directly paying for contraceptives.  Such an exemption, according to federal officials, seeks to ensure that all women can acquire contraceptives through their insurance without the need for copayments.

The case, previously brought to the Supreme Court before being sent back to the lower courts, has reignited the fight against the Affordable Care Act, as Notre Dame and countless other religious employers and institutions continue to challenge the act, believing that the compromise is still inadequate.

Notre Dame asserts that although the exemption allows the university to avoid having to pay for the contraceptives themselves, it still imposes a considerable burden on the university, as they must instead contact a third party insurance provider willing to offer the services Notre Dame is unwilling to provide.

Boston College, as a Jesuit Catholic institution, similarly opposes the mandate for birth control, with the University Health Services website stating, “Because of the morals that Boston College espouses, University Health Services, by policy, does not provide materials for the purpose of preventing conception or counsel that would encourage abortion.”

However, given the federal appeals court’s rejection of Notre Dame’s injunction, Boston College may be forced to provide birth control for its students and staff in the near future.

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