“Further, we believe Notre Dame would better serve its Catholic mission by focusing on improving campus services for families rather than embroiling itself in a legal challenge,” the petition states.
“We’d like to promote more discussion about this on campus. We’d like to see more engagement on the part of the administration,” said Kathryn Pogin, a graduate student of philosophy and one of the petition organizers.
The cost of health care coverage for spouses and children of graduate students has long been a point of concern on campus. Graduate students who can’t afford the university’s family health premiums usually enroll their children in Indiana’s state-funded health care program for low-income families, the petition notes.
Notre Dame would better serve its mission by enhancing its policies to better meet the needs of its students and their families, according to the petition.
Notre Dame is the largest employer in the community and many of the university’s hourly workers aren’t Catholic, Pogin said. “For a lot of low-paid staff members, they do not have a choice of working elsewhere. And paying out of pocket (for contraceptives) for those folks is financially burdensome,” she said.
The student organizers notified the Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame’s president, about the petition. They plan to present the petition and its signatures to Jenkins by the end of the summer.
Notre Dame officials on Tuesday declined to comment on the petition drive.
In May, Notre Dame and dozens of other institutions across the country filed federal lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of a federal regulation that requires religious organizations to provide insurance coverage for contraceptives and other services that go against Catholic Church teachings.
The federal mandate would require religious colleges, hospitals and other organizations to provide in their insurance plans abortion-inducing drugs, contraceptives and sterilization procedures, which are contrary to Catholic teaching, the institutions state. The mandate also authorizes the government to determine which organizations are sufficiently “religious” to warrant an exemption from the requirement, they said.
The lawsuits charge that these components of the regulation are a violation of religious liberties guaranteed by the First Amendment, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and other federal laws.
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services issued a rule in January that religiously affiliated nonprofit organizations must provide birth-control coverage to women employees by Aug. 1, 2013. The rule states affiliated groups must provide a broad range of services, from implanted contraceptive devices to the morning-after pill.
It’s part of a package of preventive services under the Obama health care overhaul that most workplace health plans will have to cover free to employees. Churches, synagogues, mosques and other places of worship are exempt from the rule.
In an effort to compromise, the Obama administration in February proposed shifting the cost and responsibility of providing the birth control coverage onto insurance companies while prohibiting insurers from passing the additional cost onto employees. The administration also suggested that new national health plans set up under the law could be required to offer supplemental contraceptive coverage to employees of religiously affiliated employers.
Staff writer Margaret Fosmoe: