Today, Americans United for Separation of Church and State (AU) and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), joined by co-counsel Dentons, withdrew their legal challenge to the Trump administration’s interim final rules allowing virtually any employer or university to refuse to provide birth control coverage based on religious or moral objections.
Recent victories, including Notre Dame’s change in position on contraceptive coverage for its employees and students, ended the plaintiffs’ need for litigation – for now.
Barely a week after AU and NWLC filed the legal action, Notre Dame reversed course on its plan to take advantage of the Trump rules, announcing instead that employees and students will continue to have contraceptive coverage. Another plaintiff, seminary graduate Alicia Baker, has recently accepted a new job and no longer has to worry about her previous insurance provider’s religious objections.
Notably, federal courts in California and Pennsylvania have issued preliminary injunctions blocking the Trump rules while legal challenges are pending. Both courts found it likely that legal challenges by California, Pennsylvania and several other states would succeed in striking down the rules for good.
“We’re pleased that students at the University of Notre Dame will have access to affordable birth control,” said Richard B. Katskee, legal director of Americans United. “This is a victory for women’s health. Should the school decide to take advantage of the new rules in the future to deny women coverage, we’ll be back in court.”
“We are happy for these plaintiffs, but make no mistake – the Trump Administration will face additional lawsuits if it does not rescind these illegal and harmful rules,” said NWLC President & CEO Fatima Goss Graves. “No one should have to go to court or switch jobs to get birth control coverage. We will fight for coverage of birth control no matter where women work or go to school.”
The lawsuit, Shiraef v. Hargan, was filed in the U.S. District Court in Northern Indiana on Oct. 31.
Americans United is a religious liberty watchdog group based in Washington, D.C. Founded in 1947, the organization educates Americans about the importance of church-state separation in safeguarding religious freedom.