Abortifacient Lawsuit Proceeds Against Notre Dame

News: US News
by David Nussman  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  January 29, 2020   

Federal judge gives go-ahead to student group's suit over insurance

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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (ChurchMilitant.com) - A judge is allowing a student group's lawsuit against the University of Notre Dame and the Trump administration to continue.

"Irish 4 Reproductive Health," a group of female Notre Dame students, filed suit in 2018 against the university, as well as the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Labor.

The lawsuit accuses the university of making an "unlawful settlement" with the government, allowing it to "deny students, employees and their dependents insurance coverage of birth control guaranteed to them by the Affordable Care Act."

The stated intention for this policy is to not 'burden' students who use contraceptives and rely on the university for health insurance.

On Jan. 16, Judge Philip Simon of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana turned down motions by Notre Dame and the federal government to dismiss the case.

Of the seven "counts" of the lawsuit, Simon ruled five remain fair game and dismissed the other two.

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Announcing this latest development in the lawsuit, Irish 4 Reproductive Health said they were "elated," adding, "This is a momentous step in restoring comprehensive and affordable access to reproductive health care for everyone with insurance through the University of Notre Dame."

Filing the lawsuit on the student group's behalf were the National Women's Law Center, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, and the Center for Reproductive Rights.

One of those organizations, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, is honoring members of Irish 4 Reproductive Health as its "2020 Students of the Year."

There is no principle of Catholic moral theology that can justify this voluntary and direct facilitation of moral evil.

Notre Dame's insurance covers some forms of contraception, but not those that can induce an abortion — such as the morning-after pill. The stated intention for this policy is to not "burden" students who use contraceptives and rely on the university for health insurance.

A previous insurance policy included coverage for abortifacients. But this faced intense backlash from pro-life faculty, students and alumni, leading to the removal of abortifacients from the insurance coverage in February 2018.

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Irish 4 Reproductive Health Facebook Cover Photo

After the backlash, Notre Dame president Fr. John Jenkins announced in February 2018 the university's insurance plans would phase out coverage for abortifacients, but would continue covering "simple contraceptives" — despite Catholic teaching that this is aiding in sin.

At the time, Bp. Kevin Rhoades of the Fort Wayne-South Bend diocese criticized university officials for compromising with evil, stating, "I strongly disagree with Notre Dame's decision to provide funding for contraception in its health insurance plans, which involves it even more directly in contributing to immoral activity."

In March 2018, Notre Dame alumni group Sycamore Trust launched a petition against Fr. Jenkins' plan to cover for contraceptives, arguing, "There is no principle of Catholic moral theology that can justify this voluntary and direct facilitation of moral evil."

The petition noted the university had previously filed suit against the Obama-era Health and Human Services mandate on the grounds of religious liberty.

"If Fr. Jenkins' decision is permitted to stand," the petitioners claimed, "a judicial inquiry as to whether Notre Dame lied to the courts in the mandate litigation will be appropriate," since the university is doing precisely what it previously said it could not do in good conscience.

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