Notre Dame employees keeping free birth control coverage

The University of Notre Dame told its employees Tuesday that they will continue to receive no-cost birth control coverage in a reversal from what the university told its faculty and staff last week.

The Roman Catholic university in northern Indiana sent an email to employees saying its insurance provider is continuing to offer contraception coverage not funded by the university. Notre Dame notified employees a week earlier that contraception coverage would end Jan. 1.

That step came after President Donald Trump's decision in early October allowing employers and universities to cite religious or moral objections to end birth control coverage that was available under President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act.

Notre Dame spokesman Dennis Brown said the university had believed insurance companies would discontinue the no-cost coverage at year's end but has been told by its provider Meritain Health that it would continue such coverage indefinitely.

The university fought the federal health care law's original mandate on religious grounds, but that lawsuit was voluntarily dismissed on Oct. 17, after the Trump administration removed the requirement.

"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," Notre Dame said in a statement. "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."

Meritain Health is a subsidiary of Aetna, which didn't immediately comment on whether it made coverage changes to accommodate Notre Dame.

Three Notre Dame students were among five women who joined a lawsuit filed last week challenging Trump's rollback of the birth control coverage rule.

The lawsuit filed by the National Women's Law Center and Americans United for Separation of Church and State argues the new rules violate the equal protection and due process guarantees of the U.S. Constitution and the non-discrimination provision of the Affordable Care Act.

Last week, Notre Dame notified students who receive the school's insurance plan that their no-cost contraceptive coverage would continue until August. The university said Tuesday that students will be able to choose such coverage after August separately through Aetna Student Health.

A spokeswoman for the National Women's Law Center didn't immediately comment on the impact of Notre Dame's decision.

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