Three Notre Dame Students Anonymously Fight School’s Birth-Control Mandate Lawsuit

The University of Notre Dame, like several Catholic institutions, doesn’t want to provide comprehensive medical coverage for their students so they’re suing in order to get out of the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate. Even though they don’t have to provide access to birth control, the third-party provider they work with does, and the don’t want that either.

This week, three anonymous students at the school joined in on a lawsuit to counter what Notre Dame is doing:

“These women are the people principally affected by the outcome of the case, so their voice ought to be fully heard,” said Ayesha N. Khan, legal director for the Americans United for the Separation of Church and State.

“They contacted us because they were very concerned about this and very much in need of contraception and hopeful that they would finally be able to obtain access to it,” Khan said. “They were very disheartened by the position that Notre Dame has taken.”

Arguing for anonymity, Khan said the litigation potentially could force the women to publicize personal information about their sexual activity. She also said there was the likelihood of retaliation from the community, referring to the protests about President Barack Obama appearing on campus in 2009 to receive an honorary doctorate and deliver a commencement speech

Sexual activity is, of course, one reason the women may need access to birth control. But there are any number of additional reasons they may want (or need) the pills, including reducing menstrual pain. The point is: It doesn’t matter what their reasons are. There’s just no good reason for universities, even Catholic ones, to deny students even indirect access to health care just because they’re fixated on some arbitrary moral clause. It’s not enough for them not to provide contraception; they don’t even want to sign over that responsibility to a third party.

So guess what the Illinois Family Institute’s Laurie Higgins‘ reaction is to all this?

To mock the students who need proper health care and imply that they must be sluts:

We’re expected to believe that three students who can afford to attend Notre Dame cannot afford to pay for birth control pills or condoms? Perhaps they should choose a less expensive institution, tinker with their budgets, or forgo premarital sex — which, in addition to contraception, violates Catholic doctrine.

Considering the students are anonymous, Higgins loves to make assumptions about them: That they’re paying their own way through college, that they have money to spend on health care beyond what they may already be paying for school, that they’re all having premarital sex, that they’re devout Catholics, that going to a different school is an available option.

And that’s just in one paragraph.

Their attorney claims these women are “arguing for anonymity” because they fear having their actions criticized and then laughably calls them “courageous.”

You know, the title of Higgins’ piece makes reference to Sandra Fluke, another courageous woman who became the target of all sorts of sexist conservative activists when she fought an earlier battle for comprehensive health care. Why would anyone else want to go through what she faced? Anonymity in this case is perfectly reasonable, and Higgins’ diatribe consisting of baseless assumptions against the young women just shows you why. If their names go public, their lives will only get worse.

It’s also pretty thick of Higgins to complain about others wanting anonymity when the biographical picture accompanying her article consists of a fancy visualization of her name. She doesn’t want her picture online, I would think, because she doesn’t want to be subject to any personal harassment for her views. And I get that. Yet she can’t respect that same request from these women.

Yes, nothing screams courage quite like demanding anonymity in the service of getting other people to pay for their voluntary sexual escapades, which violate the teachings of the university they voluntarily attend.

That’s exactly the kind of oversimplification you get from someone who doesn’t want to look at the whole picture because she’s too obsessed with other peoples’ sex lives. I’m not surprised. That’s the way IFI handles LGBT issues, too. They just scream “SODOMY!” and then ignore whatever the other side has to say.

The right thing to do would be to give these students the health care they need. The University of Notre Dame isn’t a church even if it’s religiously-affiliated. It can’t pick and choose what aspects of students’ health care it covers in the same way a church leader can of his staff.

If the best argument conservatives like Higgins have against these students is that they shouldn’t be allowed to make their own health decisions through their university’s third-party-provided health care plan, they’re fighting a losing battle.

Let’s just hope they lose quickly.

(Image via Shutterstock)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.


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