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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Courts - "Notre Dame students only women fighting challenge to providing birth control"

Maureen Groppe of the Gannett Washington Bureau has a long story today that begins:

WASHINGTON -- — When the Supreme Court on Tuesday takes up challenges to the Affordable Care Act's requirement that employer-provided insurance cover birth control, women affected by the case will not have a legal seat at the table.

Of the dozens of challenges across the country that are moving through the court system, the only one in which effected [sic.] women have gotten involved is the suit brought by the University of Notre Dame that is still working its way through the lower courts. Three students became parties to the case in January, arguing -- on the same side as the federal government -- in favor of the coverage.

"It puts a human face on the issue," said Ayesha Kahn, the legal director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State who is representing the students. "This isn't just about case law and legal doctrine, but about women's access to contraceptive coverage and all of the implications of that access, including control over one's reproductive capacity and childbearing decisions generally."

The students, who participate in the university's health insurance plan, may have added their voice, but they're doing so anonymously. They were concerned that challenging Notre Dame and talking publicly about intimate details of their personal lives, could expose them to public harassment and reprisals, according to court filings.

Kahn is hoping to add to the group a female Notre Dame professor who did not realize she could play a role in the litigation until she saw media coverage about the students' involvement. The employee, who also wishes to remain anonymous, takes oral contraceptives for non-contraceptive medical reasons.

That involvement is missing from the related case the Supreme Court takes up Tuesday -- whether for-profit corporations can be exempted from including full coverage for all methods of birth control, including those that the company's owners oppose on religious grounds.

Advocates on the other side were not able to find an employee of the Hobby Lobby chain of arts-and-crafts stores, or of the cabinet maker Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., to get involved.

"Those women just don't want to come forward," said Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union Reproductive Freedom Project. "They're just too afraid that they're going to lose their job."

But women's groups are promising to make their voices heard in other ways.

Here is the Feb. 21, 2014 7th Circuit Notre Dame opinion,

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 25, 2014 10:07 AM
Posted to Courts in general