Appeals Court Rules HHS Can’t Force Doctors To Perform Abortion and Transgender Procedures

Appeals Court Rules HHS Can’t Force Doctors To Perform Abortion and Transgender Procedures

On Aug. 26, a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit blocked a Department of Health and Human Services mandate requiring medical facilities to perform gender-reassignment surgeries and abortions despite religious objections.

The issue arose six years ago under the Obama administration when the federal government issued a rule which interpreted Section 1557’s prohibition of sex-based discrimination in the Affordable Care Act to include discrimination on the basis of “gender identity” and “termination of pregnancy.”

The rule also required virtually all private insurance companies and many employers to cover gender transition procedures or face stiff penalties and legal action.

A group of religious organizations and nine states quickly sued, arguing that the rule violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act by forcing them to perform abortions and gender-reassignment surgeries inconsistent with their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Although former President Trump moved to repeal the 2016 rule, President Biden reinstated it upon taking office.

In 2021, a district court issued a permanent injunction barring the enforcement of the rule. The Aug. 26 opinion upheld the injunction.

“We have been fighting in the courts against this transgender mandate since 2016, and Friday’s unanimous ruling only further protects the rights of health care professionals across this country,” said Dr. Mike Chupp, CEO of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations. “This victory … against government coercion means health care professionals can continue to exercise medical judgment and ethical care based upon sound medical evidence and Hippocratic standards of patient care instead of any ideology.”

Joseph Davis, counsel at the religious liberty law firm Becket, called the decision from the appeals court a “major victory for conscience rights and compassionate medical care in America.”

“Doctors cannot do their jobs and comply with the Hippocratic Oath if the government requires them to perform harmful, irreversible procedures against their conscience and medical expertise,” he said. “… [This] ruling ensures that … doctors and hospitals may continue to do … critical work in accordance with their conscience and professional medical judgment.”  

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