Liam Adams is an independent journalist in Denver writing for local and national outlets.  

Under New Trump Rule, Notre Dame Ends Contraception Coverage for Employees and Students

Originally published for The Chronicle of Higher Education.


The University of Notre Dame’s insurance plan will no longer cover contraception for students and employees. The Roman Catholic university’s decision follows new regulations on the Affordable Care Act issued on October 6 by the Trump administration.

The changes allow colleges and other entities to apply for exemptions for religious reasons from providing contraception coverage. The new regulations follow lawsuits challenging the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that contraception be covered in employees’ insurance.

The university is returning to the policy it had before the ACA’s mandate, explained Dennis Brown, assistant vice president for news and media relations. Although standards on contraception have changed since the Affordable Care Act, “the moral teachings of the Catholic church have not changed,” he said. “It shouldn’t be surprising that we would be in adherence to those teachings.”

Before the new regulations were issued, the Obama administration required religious institutions to cover at least one form of birth control for faculty, staff, and students. Religious universities, like Notre Dame, were allowed to use a third-party insurance provider to cover the contraceptive needs of employees and students.

With President Trump’s new regulations, the university is no longer obligated to use a third-party provider to cover contraception. Employing such a provider made Notre Dame feel as if it were “an agent of the distribution of contraception,” said Mr. Brown.

Notre Dame had filed multiple lawsuits against the Obama administration to fight for an exemption from contraception coverage altogether.

“We welcome this reversal,” said the Rev. John I. Jenkins, the university’s president, after the Trump administration issued the new regulations.

The university’s health-insurance plan covers more than 3,000 students and 90 percent of employees, Mr. Brown said.

The plan will continue to cover birth-control medications for employees and students who have a doctor’s prescription for health reasons unrelated to pregnancy. What will no longer be covered is birth control for pregnancy prevention. Birth-control coverage for faculty and staff members will end on December 31, and coverage for students will end on August 14, 2018.

Others contend that “religious freedom” isn’t a good enough reason to end contraception coverage.

Katherine Bermingham, a graduate student in political theory and constitutional studies, told the student newspaper The Observer, “Women who work for Notre Dame will disproportionately bear the burden of their employer’s attempt to live out its faith.”

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