Irish 4 Reproductive Health, et al. v. United States Department of Health and Human Services, et al.


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(Revised 8.19.20) Citing flagrant defiance of federal law and the U.S. Constitution, the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC), Americans United for Separation of Church and State (Americans United), and the Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR), along with their co-counsel Macey Swanson LLP, filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Indiana against the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Treasury, and Labor and the University of Notre Dame.

The suit challenges an unlawful settlement agreement between the Trump-Pence Administration and Notre Dame to deny students, employees, and their dependents insurance coverage of birth control guaranteed to them by the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The groups brought the suit on behalf of student group Irish 4 Reproductive Health and others insured under Notre Dame’s health plans.

The lawsuit also challenges the Trump-Pence administration’s interim final rules announced in October 2017 that would allow virtually any employer or university to refuse to comply with the ACA contraceptive coverage requirement, which requires plans to cover all FDA-approved methods of birth control for women without out-of-pocket cost.

Even though federal courts in California and Pennsylvania issued preliminary injunctions blocking the Trump-Pence interim final rules from taking effect, Notre Dame claims the illegal settlement agreement with the Administration gives it the right to drop coverage, notwithstanding the fact that the contract violates the rights of third parties who were not included in the negotiation process, or even informed of the agreement, at the time. Notre Dame relied on the settlement when it announced its plan to take contraceptive coverage away from the 17,000 employees, students, and dependents covered by its plans.  Some popular methods, like the copper IUD and emergency contraceptives, will not be covered at all, and other methods will require an out-of-pocket payment.

“Millions of women are benefiting today from the ACA’s guarantee that they can choose the best contraception for them without a co-pay. The Trump administration is trying to deny women the no-copay contraceptive benefit through regulatory loopholes and side agreements that exempt employers and universities from complying with Federal law.  That’s unlawful and we’ve sued to stop them,” said Nancy Northup, President and CEO of the Center for Reproductive Rights.”

Plaintiff(s):  Irish 4 Reproductive Health, Natasha Reifenberg, Jane Does 1-3

Attorney(s):  Emily Nestler, Caroline Sacerdote

Co-Counsel/Cooperating Attorneys: Macey Swanson LLP, Americans United for Separation of Church and State, National Women's Law Center

Summary: The Center for Reproductive Rights filed a complaint in federal court on June 26, 2018, challenging interim final rules that would allow virtually any employer or university to refuse to comply with the Affordable Care Act's contraceptive coverage mandate and an unlawful settlement between the University of Notre Dame and the Trump-Pence administration that denies the university's students, employees, and their dependents the insurance coverage of birth control guaranteed to them by the ACA.  On December 5, we filed an amended complaint to address the final rules issued by the administration. The federal government moved to dismiss our complaint and, following a hearing, we received a largely favorable ruling allowing most of our claims to proceed.  The case is currently stayed, pending a ruling from the U.S. Supreme Court in a different case challenging the rules.