National Partnership for Women & Families

In the News

Notre Dame Files Second Request To Stay Contraceptive Coverage Rules; Op-Ed Criticizes Catholic Rationale on Birth Control

Notre Dame Files Second Request To Stay Contraceptive Coverage Rules; Op-Ed Criticizes Catholic Rationale on Birth Control

January 30, 2014 — For the second time, the University of Notre Dame has requested a temporary injunction against the federal contraceptive rules while its legal challenge to the mandate proceeds, the Wall Street Journal's "Washington Wire" report.

Notre Dame is the only religiously affiliated not-for-profit contesting the rules that has not received a temporary injunction, according to "Washington Wire" (Radnofsky, "Washington Wire," Wall Street Journal, 1/28).

The federal contraceptive coverage rules, implemented under the Affordable Care Act (PL 111-148), require most employers to offer the coverage to their workers. Religiously affiliated not-for-profits are eligible for an accommodation that ensures they do not have to pay for or directly provide the coverage to their employees.

Case Background

The university in a lawsuit filed in December argued that the rules infringe on its religious views. The university had first filed suit against the requirements in May 2012, but the case was dismissed because the Obama administration was still finalizing the rules (Women's Health Policy Report, 12/4/13).

Oral arguments are scheduled for Feb. 12. Notre Dame has been complying with the rules in the meantime and told its health insurance administrator to contact policyholders with information about how the administrator would provide the coverage while the case is being resolved.

Notre Dame Likens Case to Little Sisters Lawsuit

In the request filed Tuesday with the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, the university cited a separate case involving the Little Sisters of the Poor, a Catholic not-for-profit that provides care for the elderly.

The Supreme Court's recent decision to temporarily block the federal government from enforcing the contraceptive coverage rules in that case suggests that Notre Dame is similarly entitled, the university argued ("Washington Wire," Wall Street Journal, 1/28).

Nuns' Health Could Benefit From Contraceptives, Op-Ed Says

The Little Sisters case "highlights the misunderstandings and theological errors behind the Vatican's condemnation of what it terms 'artificial contraception,'" writes Malcolm Potts, an obstetrician and a professor of public health at University of California-Berkeley, in a Los Angeles Times opinion piece. He adds, "[I]t also overlooks an important medical point: The nuns might have something to gain from taking oral contraceptives."

Potts cites a verse from the 1968 Humanae Vitae, in which Pope Paul VI officially opposed the use of contraceptives among Catholics, that permits "'therapeutic means considered necessary to cure organic diseases even though they have a contraceptive effect.'" He notes that after two generations of contraceptive use, research has shown "a substantial reduction in ovarian and uterine cancer later in life" among those who use oral contraceptives.

He adds, "Nuns have a substantially higher risk of reproductive cancers than women who have children, in part because of their celibacy, which means a lifetime of uninterrupted menstrual cycles," concluding, "[T]hey are asking the Supreme Court to exempt them from covering a medicine that would benefit their health" (Potts, Los Angeles Times, 1/30).