The University of Notre Dame has refiled a lawsuit opposing portions of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, that would require the university to provide healthcare to its students and employees that must include coverage for birth control.
Notre Dame argues that the Affordable Care Act violates the university’s freedom to fulfill its Catholic mission. Notre Dame says that providing birth control is inconsistent with Roman Catholic teachings, which prohibit the use of contraceptives.
The Obama administration had offered accommodations for religiously affiliated institutions such as universities, hospitals and social services that oppose birth control in which the health care provider pays for birth control coverage and is later reimbursed.
Notre Dame president Rev. John Jenkins rejected this compromise, “The government’s accommodations would require us to forfeit our rights, to facilitate and become entangled in a program inconsistent with Catholic teaching and to create the impression that the university cooperates with and condones activities incompatible with its mission.”
Failure to comply with the Affordable Care Act would result in fines of $2,000 per employee or $100 a day for each beneficiary. The Obama administration argues that the burden on Catholic organizations is small. Notre Dame and Catholic organizations argue it is considerable.
In its lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in South Bend, Notre Dame states that its health plans are self-insured. Notre Dame’s health plans cover about 11,000 people including 4,600 employees. About 2,600 students have Notre Dame’s student health care plan. Notre Dame filed a similar lawsuit in May last year, but the case was declared premature because the Obama administration had not yet enforced the mandate.
Predicting the result of Notre Dame’s lawsuit is tricky due to conflicting precedents. In two similar cases Christian-owned arts and crafts chain Hobby Lobby, with 13,000 full time employees, won while Mennonite-owned Conestoga Wood Specialities lost. The US Supreme Court has agreed to consider hearing both cases.