We all knew it was coming; what's surprising is that it took this long. The University of Notre Dame and a parade of other religious organizations have filed several lawsuits against the US Department of Health and Human Services today, alleging that a new Preventative Care Mandate in the Affordable Care Act that would require them to provide free contraception to female employees (and students) who needed it was a violation of their religious freedom. Even though the administration has offered a plan that would allow religious institutions to completely avoid paying a red cent for birth control for their employees, the fact that organizations would be required to offer sinful whore pills is unacceptable to religious groups. This means war. Holy litigious war.
Notre Dame's is one of twelve lawsuits (like the apostles! of JESUS!) filed by more than 40 (like the number of days that Jesus was in the desert! Or that God made it rain when he got mad at all of creation except Noah and killed all the unicorns!) individual organizations involved. Other groups lobbing their holy hand grenades include the Archdiocese of Washington and several other Catholic schools and charities. All of the lawsuits have clearly sprung fully formed from the mind of the groups' lawyers.
According to a letter sent to students and alumni by Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame's President, the lawsuit wasn't filed earlier because Jenkins had hoped that the Obama administration would bend to the Church's demands. He claims: "That mandate requires Notre Dame and similar religious organizations to provide in their insurance plans abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization procedures, which are contrary to Catholic teaching."
Father Jenkins' claim that the Affordable Care Act would force churches to provide "abortion-inducing drugs" is a violation of facts, and patently dishonest. At no place in the Affordable Care Act does the Obama administration mandate that abortion be covered. The Mandate covers contraception and emergency contraception, neither of which causes an abortion in the medical sense. Hormonal contraception (both emergency and non-emergency) work by preventing ovulation. A side effect of the drug is that the uterine lining becomes thinner and less hospitable to a fertilized egg, but if a fertilized egg manages to make it to the uterus of a woman who is on hormonal birth control, that means that the pill is not doing its job. Birth control and the Morning After Pill are not "abortion causing drugs." Period. The Church can call it whatever it wants — the Church can call it "genocide" (which it has) or "Christpunching" (which it hasn't), but repeating a lie a million times does not make it true. Birth control doesn't implant a tiny anthropomorphic sledge hammer into a woman's cervix that sits there giggling maniacally, waiting for a fertilized egg to come along so it can smash it. It prevents pregnancy from occurring by preventing ovulation. For the love of the Gipper's grinning ghost.
Jenkins also wrote,
Let me say very clearly what this lawsuit is not about: it is not about preventing women from having access to contraception, nor even about preventing the Government from providing such services. Many of our faculty, staff and students — both Catholic and non-Catholic — have made conscientious decisions to use contraceptives. As we assert the right to follow our conscience, we respect their right to follow theirs. And we believe that, if the Government wishes to provide such services, means are available that do not compel religious organizations to serve as its agents.
Except, no. The government is only proposing that employees of a religious organization that is not a house of worship have access to birth control through insurance, not that the religious institution that employs them pay for that birth control itself. Remember, only a couple of months ago, the Obama administration said that organizations that oppose the Preventative Care mandate were free to pass the cost of contraception to an insurance company, which would be reimbursed by the government. At no point would Father Jenkins, Notre Dame, or any other tax exempt entity filing suit, be required to cover slut-enabling medications.
About a dozen lawsuits have already been filed protesting the Affordable Care Act's Preventative Care Mandate, mostly by religious groups who don't want to give their female employees access to birth control (no anti-Viagra lawsuits, as far as I'm aware). The administration has also offered to give charities, hospitals, and universities the opportunity to defer their participation in the ACA for a year while they formulate a plan to help integrate religious beliefs with government requirements. At least one Catholic university has opted to scrap their health care plan altogether.
Full disclosure: I'm a Notre Dame alumna. And I've spent about as much time feeling proud of my school (like when Katie Washington, science genius from Gary, Indiana, was the school's first black Valedictorian, or when our hockey team made it to the Final Four or any time Skylar Diggins steps onto the basketball court in an Irish jersey or when I read about the Center for Social Concerns, which sends hundreds of students to do non-evangelical service work every year) as I have feeling horribly embarrassed for how fool-acty the school is when it comes to women's issues. Performances of The Vagina Monologues are always a big fucking deal, with people picketing and writing anti-Monologues letters to the student newspaper and telegraphing them from the Middle Ages. Or how for one football weekend per year, a Right to Life club used to cover part of South Quad with hundreds of tiny white crosses (which a friend and I once joked about replacing with coat hangers), because nothing says "We're A Respectable Academic Institution" like a combination sporting event/abortion protest in the form of a fetus cemetery. And the time that President Obama spoke at Commencement and a few dozen graduates and hundreds of crotchety old alumni protested his appearance there because the damn President of the United States was pro-choice. Those things are embarrassing. Like, don't-ever-give-the-alumni-fund-a-cent embarrassing. Like, mumble the name of my alma mater in mixed company embarrassing.
Nonetheless, the Loyal Sons of Notre Dame continue to bravely fight against the right of female students and staff to have access to contraception. Maybe they'll win this one. Lord knows they're not winning any football games.