Notre Dame University on Wednesday announced another change in its policy regarding coverage for contraceptives by its employee health care plan.  Initially Notre Dame sued challenging the Obama administration’s rule which required coverage, but allowed the coverage to be provided by the insurance company or third party administrator directly rather than by the University.  When the Trump administration broadened the exemption for religious non-profits so that Notre Dame could completely opt out of contraceptive coverage, the University chose to continue with the pre-existing coverage arrangement. This led to criticism from alumni and others. (See prior posting.)  Now in a letter to faculty and staff (full text), the University has announced a different approach– one which makes a distinction between Catholic teaching regarding contraception and Church teaching regarding abortion (presumably including contraceptive drugs that prevent implantation of a fertilized ovum).  The letter from Notre Dame’s president describes the policy as follows in part:… [A]llowing the government-funded provision of drugs and services to continue through a third party administrator would provide access to contraceptives without University funding or immediate involvement. The government-funded program, however, includes the provision of abortion-inducing drugs, which are far more gravely objectionable in Catholic teaching. Stopping any access to contraceptives through our health care plan would allow the University to be free of involvement with drugs that are morally objectionable in Catholic teaching, but it would burden those who have made conscientious decisions about the use of such drugs and rely on the University for health care benefits.I have reached the conclusion that it is best that the University stop the government-funded provision of the range of drugs and services through our third party administrator. Instead, the University will provide coverage in the University’s own insurance plans for simple contraceptives (i.e., drugs designed to prevent conception). The University will also provide in its plans funding for natural family planning options—options that do not use artificial contraceptives but employ natural methods for preventing conception. The University’s insurance plans (as opposed to the government-funded program) have never covered, and will not cover, abortion-inducing drugs.In response to the new policy, Bishop Rhoades, Bishop of the Diocese of Fort Wayne-South Bend where Notre Dame is located, issued a statement yesterday (full text) welcoming parts of the new policy but strongly criticizing the University’s decision to directly fund contraception coverage. [Thanks to Marty Lederman via Religionlaw for the lead.] 



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