Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) today sent a demand letter to the University of Notre Dame and filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request with the U.S. Department of Justice, seeking information on the school’s contraceptive coverage for its employees and students.
The university recently announced that it would terminate insurance coverage of certain forms of contraception, following an undisclosed settlement it claims to have reached with the government. Americans United and NWLC are demanding to see the settlement.
This recent announcement is just the latest in Notre Dame’s constantly changing position on whether its students and employees will receive contraceptive coverage – the school has changed course at least three times, including after Americans United and NWLC represented students in a lawsuit to protect their coverage. Its most recent about-face came on Feb. 7, when it cited an undisclosed settlement with the government as justification for taking away coverage of certain contraceptive methods.
Notably, federal courts in California and Pennsylvania have issued preliminary injunctions blocking Trump rules that allow virtually any employer or university to refuse to provide birth control coverage based on religious or moral objections. Both courts found it likely that legal challenges by California, Pennsylvania and several other states would succeed in striking down the rules for good.
“The government must not allow religion to be used as a basis to deny women access to birth control to which they are legally entitled,” said Rachel K. Laser, executive director of Americans United. “That’s a violation of our fundamental principles of religious freedom and fairness. Our goal today is to find out what’s going on at the University of Notre Dame and determine what steps need to be taken to ensure that students and faculty have seamless access to the full range of contraception.”
“Notre Dame is breaking the law if it denies students and employees contraceptive coverage,” said NWLC president & CEO Fatima Goss Graves. “Two federal court orders require universities to provide coverage. Any denial of coverage by Notre Dame would be illegal, plain and simple. If the Trump administration has reached a secret settlement with the university to strip vital health care from women, we will hold them accountable.”
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.