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Did Notre Dame Surrender to Obamacare Mandate?


Mark Stricherz - published on 09/08/14 - updated on 06/08/17

It has another way abound the contraceptive requirement, prof says.

Notre Dame may not be fully resisting the contraception mandate in the Affordable Care Act, after all. According to the 
National Catholic Register
, the flagship Catholic university has decided to cover artificial contraception and abortion-inducing drugs for its students this school year. Cultural conservatives are crying foul after the alleged reversal of course:
The university’s decision to provide the group health plan for students comes as Notre Dame pursues its legal challenge to the HHS mandate. Critics thus expressed concern that the move could undermine the university’s legal case, especially when other options were available for circumventing compliance requirements for the mandate.

“The university need not provide student health insurance at all,” said Gerard Bradley, a constitutional scholar at Notre Dame’s law school, who outlined the options available to university administrators.

Bradley noted that only group health plans must comply with the mandate. Consequently, the university also had another option: It could have opted to self-insure the plan for students and avoid coverage of services that violate Catholic teaching.

Bradley confirmed that the university "
would be free to exclude the contraceptive coverage,” and does so for faculty and staff.

The university has a pending lawsuit against the 2010 federal law known as Obamacare, which mandates coverage for university faculty members and students. The school maintains that the law’s requirement to provide the intrauterine device and Plan B emergency contraception violates Church teaching. But the
 Sycamore Trust, a non-profit alumni group that seeks to preserve the school’s Catholic identity, said on its website that the university secretly decided to reverse course in July:

Notre Dame is complying with the contraceptive mandate in renewing its student health insurance program for 2014-15. Aetna, the insurer, will now provide students with free abortifacients and contraceptives. Moreover, the university will itself enroll all otherwise uninsured graduate and foreign students in the plan. Notre Dame has declared in court that to do what it is doing now would be scandalous. 

The university has not issued a statement about the media report. A university spokeswoman said she was unauthorized to comment, and two university spokesmen would be available 

Mark Stricherz is based in Washington. He is author of Why the Democrats are Blue.

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