Finally, some good news for women: The University of Notre Dame reversed its decision to rescind birth control coverage for all students, faculty, and staff utilizing the school's healthcare plan. The insurance company used by the university will keep a plan with contraceptive coverage that requires no co-pay, U.S. News & World reported.
"The University of Notre Dame, as a Catholic Institution, follows Catholic teaching about the use of contraceptives and engaged in the recent lawsuit to protect its freedom to act in accord with its principles," the university said in an email. "Recognizing, however, the plurality of religious and other convictions among its employees, it will not interfere with the provision of contraceptives that will be administered and funded independently of the University."
Notre Dame initially stated it would end birth control coverage beginning Jan. 1, 2018, for faculty and staff, and Aug. 14, 2018, for students, after the Trump administration rolled back an Obamacare mandate that required employers to cover contraceptives without co-pay. The administration published a set of rules stating that any for-profit or non-profit company can disregard the birth control requirement if it conflicts with their "moral" or "religious" beliefs.
The decision to revoke birth control coverage could have potentially impacted up to 90 percent of 5,825 faculty and staff at Notre Dame, as well as 705 undergraduates, and 2,315 graduate and professional students using the university's healthcare plan, Vox reported. However, not all faculty, staff, and students utilized birth control coverage, as some are cisgender men.
Even before Notre Dame's decision to deny birth-control coverage, the school, which is affiliated with the Catholic Church, didn't offer standard health insurance plans, Slate reported. Under the Affordable Care Act's mandate, religious organizations are not forced to pay premiums that indirectly fund birth control, but they're required to enlist a third-party service that does include no-cost contraceptives in its healthcare plans. So, the university submitted a waiver stating their religious objections, and the government and insurance company then funded contraceptive coverage.
Notre Dame has opposed covering birth control for a while, suing to drop contraceptives from insurance coverage in 2015. The university ultimately lost the lawsuit. "It doesn't feel like the university cares about its female students and faculty," Maria Ignacia Vasquez, a 22-year-old Notre Dame student previously told Bustle. "We're literally half the university, and the message this sends is that our rights and our needs are not as important. It's also frustrating because I would've hoped there had been more transparency about who is making these decisions: Were there women involved at all? We don't know, because they don't tell us that."
Other students, Emily Garret and Molly Burton, wrote an op-ed for Time's site Motto about being denied birth control through the university. "When we decided to enroll at Notre Dame almost four years ago, we didn’t realize that we were relinquishing our right to basic healthcare," they wrote. "Coming from Catholic backgrounds, we both assumed that living on a Catholic campus would not be much different than living in a modern Catholic home — especially because of Notre Dame’s advertised acceptance of all faiths."
Denying coverage would have affected those with the least options, Garret and Burton explained. "While we’re both privileged enough to still be covered under our parents’ insurance plans, other students are not so fortunate," they said. "Many international students and uninsured domestic students often have no other option but to sign up under the university’s plan. Cis-men are the only demographic on campus whose reproductive health will not be directly affected by this change; every other group — including female students of low income backgrounds, graduate students on tight stipends, low-wage earning staff and faculty members with dependents — will be disproportionately affected."
Fortunately, it looks like those marginalized students and staff members will be able to hold on to their access to no-cost birth control coverage. Notre Dame is, thus far, the first major institution to take advantage of the Trump admin's new loophole. Considering the school has already reversed its decision, hopefully this means more organizations won't follow their lead.