SOUTH BEND, Indiana — The University of Notre Dame is reversing itself and now telling employees they will continue to receive no-cost birth control coverage.
The Catholic university sent an email Tuesday to faculty and staff saying its health insurance provider is offering contraception coverage not funded by the university.
Last week, Notre Dame said no-cost contraception coverage would end for staff and faculty on Jan. 1, and for students on Aug. 15, 2018. That step came after a decision by President Donald Trump’s administration that allowed employers to cite religious objections in order to end birth control coverage available under the 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.
Father John Jenkins, president of the university, said in an Oct. 6 statement that he welcomed the changes announced by the Trump administration because “critical issues of religious freedom were at stake.
“For that reason, we welcome this reversal and applaud the attorney general’s statement that ‘except in the narrowest circumstances, no one should be forced to choose between living out his or her faith and complying with the law,’” his statement read.
However, the Oct. 27 letter to staff and students announcing the ending of contraceptive coverage met with resistance from some members of the university, some of whom were planning on taking the issue to court.
“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 Tuesday’s 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.
A spokeswoman for the National Women’s Law Center didn’t immediately comment on the impact of Notre Dame’s decision.
Crux staff contributed to this report.