Notre Dame Sues Over Birth Control Rule

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on May 22, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Along with a number of other Catholic institutions, the University of Notre Dame has filed a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration's birth control mandate. At its heart, Notre Dame's birth control lawsuit is about religious freedom.

The school is arguing that both the original birth control mandate and the subsequent compromise violate its constitutional rights. If enforced, the school would be "compelled to act in a way contrary to Catholic teachings."

As a recap, the Department of Health and Human Services issued a final regulation in February that requires all employer health insurance plans to provide birth control coverage. Only those religious institutions that primarily serve and employ members of their own faith are exempted.

Few institutions meet these requirements, which set off a firestorm of complaints. The Obama administration responded with a compromise. Religious institutions can opt out, but insurers will still be required to provide free birth control coverage to employees who want it.

This compromise has not yet been solidified, and even if it were, the Notre Dame birth control lawsuit claims that it still violates the school's religious freedom. Notre Dame says it "cannot, without violating its sincerely held religious beliefs, subsidize, facilitate and/or sponsor coverage for abortifacients, sterilization services, contraceptives and related counseling services," comply with either rule.

The outcome of this lawsuit is incredibly difficult to predict. To withstand constitutional scrutiny, the government must show that the birth control mandate is narrowly tailored to advance a compelling government interest. The Notre Dame birth control lawsuit, pointing to all the other ways the government can increase contraceptive coverage, claims that it is not.

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