01/15/2014 04:42 pm ET Updated Jan 25, 2014

Students Allowed To Argue Against Notre Dame In Lawsuit Over Birth Control Mandate


Three students at the University of Notre Dame will be able to join the federal government's side in a lawsuit over a requirement to have health insurance plans cover birth control, a federal appeals court ruled Tuesday.

Notre Dame filed a new lawsuit in December against the Obama administration, arguing that a federal mandate to have its health insurance plans for employees and students cover birth control violated the school's religious freedom. The Catholic university teaches that contraception is morally wrong.

The unnamed women now allowed to intervene in the lawsuit claim they will be affected by the outcome, the Chicago Tribune reports.

Americans United for Separation of Church and State filed a motion on behalf of the students last month, according to Indiana Public Media, arguing that the school would be violating the rights of its employees and students.

"I welcome this move by the court," Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United, said in a statement. "Many Americans run the risk of losing their ability to get and use contraceptives. They deserve a voice in court. Thanks to this order, their stories will be heard."

The university did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Huffington Post.

The Obama administration announced a compromise in 2012 to require the insurer, rather than the employer, to provide contraception free of charge to women employed by religious institutions. The university believes that accommodation, and the requirement that the school self-certify it does not wish to cover contraception, are still a violation of their religious liberty, according to RH Reality Check.

"That type of argument is especially dangerous because it basically says 'My religious beliefs give me an interest in what someone else does with their own body even if I'm not paying for it, even indirectly,'" Gregory Lipper, senior litigation counsel for Americans United, said last month.

The university is complying with the self-certification requirement for now while the legal wrangling continues.

A federal judge dismissed the university's first lawsuit challenging the mandate in December 2012, calling it premature.

Students at Notre Dame petitioned the university in 2012 to drop their legal challenges, pointing out other Catholic institutions provide birth control coverage without alleging it violates their religious teachings.