On the request of providers of religious healthcare who were concerned that the Biden admin would interpret the Care Act in a way that would force them to perform gender-transition treatment or abortions in violation of their religious beliefs, a federal judge granted a permanent injunction.

The US Department of Health and Human Services has previously said that it does not require religious providers to conduct such treatments. It has never taken or threatened to take enforcement action against a religious institution in such a scenario.

Religious Health Care Successful In Against ACA Rules

Despite Judge Reed O’Connor’s interpretation of HHS regulations that the plaintiffs, a Catholic hospital system in the Midwest, and a group of Christian physicians, were forced to choose between their religious beliefs and their livelihood, he found that the plaintiffs had suffered an “incapacity for recovery.” 

Religious Health Care Successful In Against ACA Rules

The judgment underscores a long-running dispute between conservative Christian health care providers and the Department of Health and Human Services over an issue that has resulted in a patchwork of decisions that appeal courts will most likely decide. Judge Sandra Day O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas, the order was granted, who found HHS in breach of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which mandates respect to religion unless there is a “compelling government interest.” The Northern District of Texas is where O’Connor’s court is situated.

Even though O’Connor previously ruled that the disputed portions of the law were unconstitutional, the defendants, Franciscan Alliance, a Catholic hospital network in Indiana and Illinois, and the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, as well as their 19,000 members nationwide, are the only ones who will benefit from the injunction.

In January, a federal court in North Dakota decided to favor a Catholic health system in a case that was almost similar to this one. The administration of Vice President Joe Biden is challenging it. 

The Texas plaintiffs filed their case in 2016 in reaction to Affordable Care Act-related rules issued by the Obama administration’s Department of Health and Human Services that year.

These regulations, which apply to the overwhelming majority of medical providers as a consequence of their involvement in federally sponsored programs, banned discrimination based on sex, which was understood to encompass gender identity, and pregnancy status, which included words like “termination of pregnancy.”

According to HHS research at the time, transgender men would be forced to undergo hysterectomies done in medical settings. The rules, however, made it clear that federal protections for religious liberty and conscience would take precedence over any duties in this area. The Affordable Care Act and other government restrictions, according to the research, protect medical professionals from being compelled to perform abortions. 

Judge Sandra Day O’Connor ruled parts of the statutes against discrimination based on gender identity and prenatal abortion unlawful in 2019. The Trump administration extended religious exemptions in 2020 and repealed gender identity protections the following year despite temporary halting by other federal courts. A Supreme Court ruling soon followed, construing the federal ban on sex discrimination to encompass a prohibition on discrimination based on gender identity as well. 

The Department of Health and Human Services said in May that it would interpret its rules in line with the Supreme Court’s judgment, but that it will also follow previous court rulings such as the O’Connor case. He pointed out that there was a contradiction when the court granted the permanent injunction this week.

Mr. Luke Goodrich, an attorney defending the plaintiffs on behalf of Becket, a religious liberty-focused legal organization, expressed satisfaction with the case’s result. He thinks it is in everyone’s best interests for these doctors and hospitals to provide excellent medical care without jeopardizing their morals.