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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (ChurchMilitant.com) - University of Notre Dame alumni are charging the president with hypocrisy for leading the student delegation at March for Life weeks after the Catholic school started offering contraception coverage to staff, reversing its previous position.
On Thursday, the executive board of University Faculty for Life, made up of faculty, administration and staff who respect life from conception to natural death, wrote a letter to President Fr. John Jenkins in the student newspaper, The Observer, expressing opposition to Notre Dame's decision to "continue its involvement in the distribution of abortifacients and contraceptives through the University's health insurance plan, after there was no longer any legal necessity to do so."
The group also reaffirmed its commitment to "the holistic teachings of the Church on the sanctity of all human life" a day before faculty, staff and students took part in the March for Life in Washington, D.C.
The University of Notre Dame, as a Catholic institution, follows Catholic teaching about the use of contraceptives and engaged in the recent lawsuit to protect its freedom to act in accord with its principles. Recognizing, however, the plurality of religious and other convictions among its employees, it will not interfere with the provision of contraceptives that will be administered and funded independently of the University.
The Catholic college was complying with the HHS mandate under an "accommodation," which allowed for staff and students as part of the university health plans to be provided free contraceptives and abortifacients.
However, the Sycamore Trust reported that Notre Dame's response to the mandate began with a misrepresentation to the courts, according to a letter released to Fr. Jenkins from alumni attorneys in December.
After settling the lawsuit against the federal government, Notre Dame shifted responsibility for free abortifacients and contraceptives toward its insurers, Meritain Health and OptumRx, who provide and distribute them while the university sponsors them. The Catholic college also claimed that the misrepresentation was the result of "communication" issues.
Paul Browne, Notre Dame's vice president for communications, insisted that the school "believed that the insurance companies would discontinue no-cost coverage for contraceptives for employees at the end of the year." He then remarked, "Since then, we have been informed that Meritain Health/OptumRx will continue such coverage indefinitely."
Notre Dame's decision leaves the school continuing its "accommodation" program despite Trump's revision of the mandate and the university's lawsuit settlement. The letter released Wednesday mentioned that accommodation means that "Meritain/Optum are obliged to furnish free abortifacient/contraceptive coverage to employees, but they're compensated by the government."
This means that Notre Dame, the sponsor of the student health insurance plans, is indirectly funding access to birth control and abortion.
The Sycamore Trust ended the letter expressing hope that Fr. Jenkins' actions at the March will "inspire him to change his mind" while declaring that they will "look to the Fellows and Trustees of the University to reverse this execrable action, so hostile to human life and so damaging to Notre Dame's claim to be a Catholic university."