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Federal Court Again Denies Notre Dame Injunction Against Contraceptive Coverage Rules

Federal Court Again Denies Notre Dame Injunction Against Contraceptive Coverage Rules

May 20, 2015 — The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday in a 2-1 decision for the second time rejected the University of Notre Dame's request for an injunction against the federal contraceptive coverage rules, the Wall Street Journal reports (Radnofsky/Kendall, Wall Street Journal, 5/19).

Case Background

Notre Dame objects to an accommodation under the Affordable Care Act's (PL 111-148) contraceptive coverage rules that applies to not-for-profits that hold themselves out as religious and oppose contraception.

The accommodation enables such not-for-profits to notify their insurers or third-party administrators of their objection so the insurers or third-party administrators can facilitate contraceptive coverage for members of their health plans. To claim the accommodation, the not-for-profits can either complete a form to send to the insurers or third-party administrators or send a letter to HHS stating that they object to offering contraceptive coverage in their health plans (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/9).

In February 2014, a three-judge panel of the 7th Circuit in a 2-1 decision rejected Notre Dame's request for a preliminary injunction against the federal contraceptive coverage rules (Women's Health Policy Report, 2/24/14). The 7th Circuit in May 2014 also rejected the university's request for a full-panel hearing (Women's Health Policy Report, 5/8/14).

In October 2014, Notre Dame asked the Supreme Court to review the case in light of the Hobby Lobby decision. The high court in March vacated the 7th Circuit's ruling and ordered the circuit court to reconsider its ruling in light of the Hobby Lobby decision (Women's Health Policy Report, 3/9).

Details of Latest Ruling

On Tuesday, the 7th Circuit said Notre Dame had not sufficiently demonstrated that a preliminary injunction against the rules is necessary while the university continues its legal challenge.

According to the Journal, the court indicated that it believed the Obama administration had sufficiently accommodated the university's religious beliefs while also advancing its interest in offering contraceptive coverage. Judge Richard Posner wrote, "Although Notre Dame is the final arbiter of its religious beliefs, it is for the courts to determine whether the law actually forces Notre Dame to act in a way that would violate those beliefs."

Posner continued, "The very word 'accommodation' implies a balance of competing interests; and when we compare the burden on the government or third parties of having to establish some entirely new method of providing contraceptive coverage with the burden on Notre Dame of simply notifying the government that the ball is now in the government's court, we cannot conclude that Notre Dame has yet established its right to the injunctive relief that it is seeking before trial" (Wall Street Journal, 5/19).