Catholics are upset that the University of Notre Dame is complying with President Barack Obama’s controversial HHS mandate that forces colleges, businesses and religious groups to pay for birth control and abortion-causing drugs for their employees.
Notre Dame didn’t want to comply. It filed a lawsuit against the Obama administration over its mandate.
But, recently, a federal judge denied the University’s request for relief from the Obama administration’s mandate. Then on December 31, a panel of the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals denied Notre Dame’s emergency motion for a stay, pending an appeal. If Notre Dame fails to comply with the HHS mandate, it will face crippling fines of up to $100 per day per employee. But Notre Dame has decided to accept the Obama administration’s “accommodation,” which ensures employees the offensive coverage over the University’s objection.
“Having been denied a stay, Notre Dame is advising employees that pursuant to the Affordable Care Act, our third party administrator is required to notify plan participants of coverage provided under its contraceptives payment program,” said Paul Browne, Notre Dame’s vice president for public affairs and communications, according to WNDU. “As part of an ongoing legal action, however, the program may be terminated once the university’s lawsuit on religious liberty grounds against the HHS mandate has worked its way through the courts.”
But that decision is not going over well with Catholics, according to the National Catholic Register, which reports that a pro-life law professor says the university could have refused:
The news, which came amid a flurry of 11th-hour reprieves for many other HHS plaintiffs that also faced a Jan. 1 deadline, dismayed members of the Notre Dame community who had supported the decision to file the legal challenge.
“Today, the university advised employees — myself included — that its third-party administrator (Meritain Health) would be in touch about the ‘free’ services — which include abortifacient drugs and devices,” noted Gerard Bradley, a professor at the Notre Dame School of Law, in a post on National Review’s Bench Memos.
“[T]he university could refuse to ‘certify’ its conscientious objection to the TPA, thus holding back on the trigger necessary for Meritain to initiate coverage,” said Bradley, who expressed regret with the university’s apparent decision to sign the self-certification form authorizing a third-party administrator (TPA) to provide the mandated services.
“The reasons for doing so would be, as Notre Dame asserted in its formal complaint in the local federal court, that so ‘triggering’ the coverage would be tantamount to facilitating abortions in violation of the university’s Catholic beliefs,” added Bradley, who noted that the Jan. 2 announcement “implies that the university has indeed pulled that trigger.”
While the university had originally filed its legal challenge to the mandate in 2012, a U.S. district court ultimately dismissed the lawsuit as premature, as religious nonprofits had been given a one-year extension by the government before they were required to comply with the mandate.
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Holy Cross Father Bill Miscamble, a professor of history at Notre Dame, told the Register that he was disappointed “with the tepid way in which Notre Dame has acquiesced with the Obamacare provisions and authorized its health-insurance administrator to implement the HHS mandate.”
Father Miscamble suggested that Father Jenkins should be a national leader in the fight for a broad religious exemption to the federal law and should step forward now to back “Archbishop Kurtz’s call on President Obama to use his executive authority to defer any application of these offensive mandate provisions until the legal issues are finally settled.”
Father Miscamble also targeted the university’s decision to refile its lawsuit just one month before the Jan. 1, 2014, deadline, “after making preparations early in the fall to comply with the mandate provisions.”