By Hannah Finnie, Michelle Banker and Mara Gandal-Powers, National Women’s Law Center
In June 2018, we filed a lawsuit against the University of Notre Dame and the Trump-Pence administration for illegally teaming up in order to deny Notre Dame students and staff their birth control coverage. As we write this, students, staff, and their dependents at the University of Notre Dame are still being denied the birth control coverage they’re guaranteed under the Affordable Care Act. We haven’t—and will never—stop fighting until everyone has access to the birth control they need. But until then, we figured we’d make it just a little bit easier to keep track of how this case is moving along. Here’s a timeline of how this case (and other similar cases) is proceeding:
- October 2017: The Trump-Pence administration announces interim final rules allowing virtually any employer or university to deny birth control coverage required by the ACA. (The Administrative Procedure Act governs how executive agencies create rules—the “interim final rules” cut a lot of corners laid out in the APA to get these birth control restrictions out). The rules are blocked by 2 separate courts in Pennsylvania and California after lawsuits filed by state attorney generals both because of how they were enacted and the substance of the rules themselves (you can read more about just how bad the rules are here). This leaves the ACA’s birth control benefit in effect, meaning that students and employees across the country should be getting no-cost birth control coverage, no matter where they work.
- February 2018: Notre Dame announces that it will not comply with the birth control benefit, because it has teamed up with the Trump-Pence Administration, signing a settlement agreement that gives Notre Dame a free pass. Notre Dame says it will drop students’ and staff’s coverage for some birth control methods and charge copays and deductibles for others (all in violation of the ACA birth control benefit).
- June 2018: NWLC, along with its partners Americans United for Separation of Church and State and the Center for Reproductive Rights, sue Notre Dame and the Trump-Pence administration on behalf of student group Irish 4 Reproductive Health and other women covered by Notre Dame’s health plans.
- July and August 2018: Changes to Notre Dame’s health insurance plans go into effect—students and staff no longer receive the coverage guaranteed by the ACA birth control benefit.
- November 2018: The Trump-Pence administration finalizes its birth control rules.
- January 2019: These final rules are once again blocked by 2 separate courts in Pennsylvania and California, right before they were scheduled to go into effect.
- February 2019: The Trump-Pence administration and Notre Dame try to get the court to throw out the lawsuit NWLC and its partners filed on behalf of Irish 4 Reproductive Health.
- March 2019: NWLC and its partners file a brief supporting the students at Notre Dame. The brief counters the Administration’s and Notre Dame’s baseless legal arguments and supports the students’ fight for birth control coverage.
As we wait to hear from the court in our case, we know this: As long as this administration continues threatening birth control access and coverage, we’ll keep doing everything we can to protect it.