The Trump administration’s new rules on birth control coverage open the door for the University of Notre Dame and other employers to stop covering contraceptives as part of their health plans. A legal battle over the changes is already brewing.
University of Notre Dame President Rev. John Jenkins is applauding the policy change, saying in a statement it reinforces religious freedom.
Notre Dame is one of several organizations that filed a legal challenge to the Obama-era birth control coverage mandate, arguing it shouldn’t have to provide contraception because it goes against the university’s religious beliefs.
Americans United For Separation of Church and State is representing two Notre Dame students on the other side of that case, which remains caught up in the Court of Appeals. Legal Director Richard B. Katskee says his organization also plans to challenge Trump’s new policy, which broadens coverage exemptions for religious and moral reasons.
“Religious freedom is the right to believe or not, to practice your faith or not as you see fit,” Katskee says. “It’s not the right to use the government to impose your beliefs on someone else. That’s religious discrimination.”
While Trump’s new policy was effective immediately, Katskee says the changes could be halted through the courts.
A Notre Dame student is also part of an American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit challenging the changes. Kate Rochat says she’s worried about what she’ll do if the university moves forward with dropping its coverage of birth control for students and employees.
“While I respect their religious ideology there’s a point at which when students are unable to access basic healthcare because of their university’s religion there’s an issue with private rights,” Rochat says.
Rochat says other Notre Dame students protested the birth control changes outside of the campus’ main building Tuesday.