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Court rules Irish 4 Reproductive Health’s lawsuit against University, Trump administration can proceed

| Friday, January 17, 2020

Independent reproductive rights group Irish 4 Reproductive Health (I4RH) announced in a Friday email the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana will allow the organization’s lawsuit against Notre Dame and the Trump administration to proceed.

The lawsuit was filed on the group’s behalf by the National Women’s Law Center — which released its own statement — Americans United for Separation of Church and State, the Center for Reproductive Rights, and law firms Fried Frank and Macey Swanson.

Filed June 26, 2018, the lawsuit claims the Trump administration and Notre Dame reached an unlawful agreement which exempts the University from covering certain types of birth control on its insurance plans.

“In February 2018, Notre Dame entered into a secretive deal with the Trump-Pence administration to impose unnecessary and burdensome costs on us and restrict our reproductive healthcare options to methods deemed acceptable by [University President Fr. John Jenkins’s] coterie of advisors,” the email said.

The suit argues this agreement violates the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive coverage requirement.

“Certain forms of IUDs and emergency contraception are not covered at all by University insurance plans, putting survivors of sexual assault and people experiencing intimate partner violence especially at risk,” the email said. “In direct violation of the Affordable Care Act, we now incur costs for all office visits, medications and devices associated with reproductive health.”

The court ruled against the University and Trump-Pence administration’s efforts to have the suit dismissed.

In an email, Paul Browne, University vice president for public affairs and communications, defended the legality of the school’s actions.

“Our position is grounded in the autonomy of litigants, including the government, to settle claims, and we are confident that Notre Dame will prevail,” he said.

I4RH also announced in its email that the group will travel to Washington, D.C. in March to be honored as the 2020 Students of the Year by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State. The group is accepting donations to cover travel costs.

This report was updated on Jan. 17, 2020, at 4:35 p.m.

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