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Notre Dame employees will keep birth control coverage, despite university decision

It's still unclear what will happen to coverage for students.

Protesters outside the Supreme Court during arguments in a case on the contraceptive mandate, March 23, 2016.
Protesters outside the Supreme Court during arguments in a case on the contraceptive mandate, March 23, 2016.
Tom Williams/Contributor/Getty Images
Anna North is a senior correspondent for Vox, where she covers American family life, work, and education. Previously, she was an editor and writer at the New York Times. She is also the author of three novels, including the New York Times bestseller Outlawed.

The University of Notre Dame recently became one of the first employers to take advantage of new Trump administration rules allowing exemptions to the Obamacare contraceptive mandate. In late October, the university announced that it would drop birth control coverage for its students, faculty, and staff.

The private Catholic university notified students and employees of the change on October 27, according to Indiana Public Media. Birth control coverage for students would end August 14, 2018. Faculty and staff, however, would lose their coverage on December 31. The school would still cover birth control if it was used as treatment for a medical condition and not as pregnancy prevention.

On Tuesday, however, Notre Dame employees got an email stating that they would get to keep birth control coverage after all, according to the South Bend Tribune. Meritain Health and OptumRX, the third-party administrator and prescription benefit manager responsible for managing birth control coverage for Notre Dame employees in the past, have agreed to keep offering contraception at no charge, the Tribune reports. It’s not yet clear whether Aetna Student Health, which manages birth control coverage for students, will make a similar decision.

Notre Dame has 5,825 employees and 12,393 students, according to a university spokesperson. Ninety percent of employees are covered by the university insurance plan and may be affected by the policy change (though, of course, not all use birth control). Among students, 3,020 — 705 undergraduates and 2,315 graduate and professional students — are covered by the university plan.

Previously, Notre Dame offered contraceptive coverage through a third-party system devised by the Obama administration for religious employers. But the university had long been fighting to drop coverage entirely. New rules issued by the Trump administration in early October — allowing any employer to request an exemption from the birth control coverage requirement for moral or religious reasons — gave Notre Dame the opening it needed. Employers who are exempt do not have to offer coverage through a third party.

The American Civil Liberties Union has sued the Trump administration over the new birth control rules, and a Notre Dame law student is one of the plaintiffs in the suit.

“No matter where a woman works or goes to school she should have coverage for basic health care services like contraceptives,” Brigitte Amiri, a senior staff attorney at the ACLU, told Indiana Public Media.

Update: This article has been updated to add information on the number of people affected by Notre Dame’s policy change.