Jun 26, 2018

SOUTH BEND, IN — Citing flagrant defiance of federal law and the U.S. Constitution, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) and the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), along with their co-counsel Macey Swanson LLP, filed suit today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana against the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury and Labor and the University of Notre Dame.

The suit challenges an unlawful settlement agreement between the Trump-Pence administration and Notre Dame to deny students, employees and their dependents insurance coverage of birth control guaranteed to them by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The groups brought the suit on behalf of student group Irish 4 Reproductive Health and others insured under Notre Dame’s health plans.

The lawsuit also challenges the Trump-Pence administration’s interim final rules announced in October 2017 that would allow virtually any employer or university to refuse to comply with the ACA contraceptive coverage requirement, which requires plans to cover all FDA-approved methods of birth control for women without out-of-pocket cost.

Even though federal courts in California and Pennsylvania issued preliminary injunctions blocking the Trump-Pence interim final rules from taking effect, Notre Dame claims the illegal settlement agreement with the administration gives it the right to drop coverage, notwithstanding the fact that the contract violates the rights of third parties who were not included in the negotiation process, or even informed of the agreement, at the time. Notre Dame relied on the settlement earlier this year when it announced its plan to take contraceptive coverage away from the 17,000 employees, students and dependents covered by its plans.  The change will go into effect for employees on July 1 and for students in August. Some popular methods, like the copper IUD and emergency contraceptives, will not be covered at all and other methods will require an out-of-pocket payment.

“Universities should not be allowed to use religion to deny women access to birth control,” said Americans United President and CEO Rachel Laser. “The Trump-Pence administration and the University of Notre Dame conspired in secret dealings to take away insurance coverage for women’s reproductive healthcare. This lawsuit aims to get it back.”

“It’s illegal for the Trump administration to take away people’s right to contraceptive coverage behind closed doors,” said Fatima Goss Graves, President and CEO of the National Women’s Law Center. “We are exposing this deceptive tactic and taking the administration and Notre Dame to court to stop them from chipping away at our right to control our bodies and lives. People deserve birth control coverage, no matter where they work or go to school.”

“Millions of women are benefiting today from the ACA’s guarantee that they can choose the best contraception for them without a co-pay. The Trump administration is trying to deny women the no-copay contraceptive benefit through regulatory loopholes and side agreements that exempt employers and universities from complying with Federal law.  That’s unlawful and we’ve sued to stop them,” said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.”

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.