SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — A federal appeals court has ruled
three University of Notre Dame students who want the school to provide
health care plans covering birth control can intervene on the side of
the federal government in a university-filed lawsuit that challenges
parts of the Affordable Health Care Act.
The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago ruled late Tuesday that
the three students — identified only as Jane Doe 1, Jane Doe 2 and Jane
Doe 3 — can take part in the lawsuit. Ayesha Khan, who is representing
the women and is legal director of Americans United for Separation of
Church and State, said Wednesday that the women wanted a say in the
lawsuit because they have a perspective different from lawyers
representing the federal government.
"They are the people who would be impacted by Notre Dame getting out of
the Affordable Care Act regulation," she said. "The United States is
defending an entire regulatory skein, not speaking on behalf of any
particularly affected women."
She said students' decisions to attend Notre Dame should not make them
unable to have health care coverage that covers birth control "that the
government has determined to be necessary for women's health care."
University spokesman Paul Browne said the case is fundamentally about
the mandate's unconstitutional impingement on religious liberty, "and
only incidentally about contraceptive services."
"If government is allowed to entangle a religious institution in one
area contrary to conscience, it's given license to do so in others," he
The university filed a lawsuit last month challenging a compromise in
the Affordable Health Care Act offered by the Obama administration that
attempted to create a buffer for religiously affiliated hospitals,
universities and social service groups that oppose birth control. The
law requires insurers or the health plan's outside administrator to pay
for birth control coverage for students and employees and creates a way
to reimburse them.
Notre Dame contends that the law violates its freedom to practice
religion without government interference. When U.S. District Judge
Philip Simon rejected the university's request for an injunction last
month, the school filed an appeal to the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of
The appeals court ruling means that lawyers representing the three women
will file briefs in the lawsuit at the same time as federal lawyers and
could be taking part in oral arguments next month, Khan said.
She said the three women wish to remain anonymous because the case
involves information of a "private nature." The university's code of
conduct states that students who engage in sex outside of marriage may
be subject to referral to the university conduct process.
Khan also said the women could be "ostracized" if their identities were