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Notre Dame Petitions Supreme Court To Review Challenge to Contraceptive Coverage Rules

Notre Dame Petitions Supreme Court To Review Challenge to Contraceptive Coverage Rules

October 8, 2014 — The University of Notre Dame has asked the Supreme Court to review its case challenging the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) contraceptive coverage rules, MSNBC reports.

According to MSNBC, if the university or a similar plaintiff eventually wins their case, the scope of businesses that are allowed to claim religious exemptions from the law would grow significantly (Carmon, MSNBC, 10/7).

Background

HHS originally crafted an accommodation to the federal contraceptive coverage rules that allows not-for-profits with religious objections to contraception to avoid providing the coverage directly, while also ensuring that members of their health plans have access to the contraceptive coverage benefits under the ACA. The not-for-profits are required to inform HHS of their objections, but some objected to the process for doing so.

In August, HHS in an effort to address court challenges against the requirement announced a new rule that maintains the accommodation but creates a second way for those entities to provide notice of their objections. Under the new option, religiously affiliated not-for-profits can use the original accommodation or send a letter to HHS stating that they object to offering contraceptive coverage in their health plans. The rule took effect immediately upon publication, but HHS said it would take comments.

Notre Dame appealed case to the high court by Oct. 4 after a lower court denied its request for an injunction against the accommodation (Women's Health Policy Report, 9/18).

Appeal Details

Attorneys for Notre Dame asked the Supreme Court to require the lower courts to reconsider its case against the accommodation in light of the high court's ruling in the Hobby Lobby case (MSNBC, 10/7). In Hobby Lobby, the high court said closely held corporations cannot be required to provide contraceptive coverage to their employees if the corporations' owners have religious objections to contraception (Women's Health Policy Report, 6/30).

Notre Dame in its petition wrote that "[u]nder the accommodation, religious organizations must take actions that they believe make them complicit in the delivery of the very coverage they find objectionable." They added, "What may seem like an 'administrative' burden to a court may mean much more to a believer."

The university also argued that its continued decision to offer health insurance is an "exercise of religion," and that the contraceptive coverage rules do not serve a compelling public interest (MSNBC, 10/7).