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Injunction denial stands in Notre Dame contraception case

February 24, 2014

A divided 7th Circuit Court of Appeals panel affirmed denial of a temporary injunction sought by the University of Notre Dame to block enforcement of the contraception mandate contained in the Affordable Care Act.

Notre Dame failed to convince the District Court for the Northern District of Indiana to grant an injunction blocking enforcement of the mandate. The Affordable Care Act allows religious institutions such as Notre Dame to sign a form opting out of paying for contraception, but insurers must provide such services to women at no cost to them.

Circuit Judge Richard Posner wrote for the majority joined by Judge David Hamilton in University of Notre Dame v. Kathleen Sebelius, 13-3853, that it was unclear what Notre Dame was asking the court to do, since a requirement that it provide a form opting out didn’t trigger provision of contraceptive services.

“If the government is entitled to require that female contraceptives be provided to women free of charge, we have trouble understanding how signing the form that declares Notre Dame’s authorized refusal to pay for contraceptives for its students or staff, and mailing the authorization documents to (insurers), which under federal law are obligated to pick up the tab, could be thought to ‘trigger’ the provision of female contraceptives.”

But Circuit Judge Joel Flaum would have reversed and granted the injunction, believing that Notre Dame has a strong case under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act – a position on the likely outcome the majority cautioned against reaching in an interlocutory appeal.

“I conclude that Notre Dame has shown a likelihood of success on the merits, and that it has met the other requirements for a preliminary injunction,” Flaum wrote. “I would therefore reverse the district court’s order denying relief.”




 

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