In a victory for religious freedom, a federal judge in Texas has thrown out a rule issued by HHS that would have forced doctors to perform procedures on transgender people even if it was against their religious beliefs.
The suit was filed by several states as well as Catholic hospitals and a Christian physician association.
“This is a common-sense ruling: The government has no business forcing private doctors to perform procedures that the government itself recognizes can be harmful, particularly to children, and that the government exempts its own doctors from performing,” said Lori Windham, senior counsel at Becket Law, which filed a lawsuit against the new federal regulation. “Today’s ruling ensures that doctors’ best medical judgment will not be replaced with political agendas and bureaucratic interference.”
The new regulation applied to over 900,000 doctors—nearly every doctor in the U.S.—and would have cost healthcare providers and taxpayers nearly $1 billion. The government itself does not require its own military doctors to perform these procedures. It also does not require blanket coverage of gender transition procedures in Medicare or Medicaid—even in adults—because HHS’s experts admitted research is “‘inconclusive’ on whether gender reassignment surgery improves health outcomes,” with some studies demonstrating that these procedures were actually harmful. But a doctor citing the same evidence and using their best medical judgment would have faced potential lawsuits or job loss.
But advocates for transgender rights think that this is “legally specious” legal theory.
“Plaintiffs will be forced to either violate their religious beliefs or maintain their current policies which seem to be in direct conflict with the Rule and risk the severe consequences of enforcement,” O’Connor wrote.
Transgender rights advocates have called that a far-fetched hypothetical, saying a person would not approach a doctor who lacked suitable experience and expertise.
The Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund criticized the injunction as contrary to existing law and said it expects the ruling to be overturned on appeal.
“Judge O’Connor’s conclusion that transgender people and persons who have had abortions are somehow excepted from protection is deeply troubling, legally specious, and morally repugnant,” said Ezra Young, the organization’s director of impact litigation.
Federal officials did not immediately react to the ruling, and adding to the uncertainty is a new administration under President-elect Donald Trump. Many transgender people expect him to abandon or weaken the transgender protection efforts pursued by the Obama administration. Trump sent mixed signals about his approach to transgender rights during his campaign, at one point saying transgender celebrity Caitlyn Jenner could use whatever bathroom she preferred in one of his luxury buildings.
At the same time, Trump has declined to repudiate a divisive North Carolina law that restricts transgender people’s bathroom access. He has said such policy decisions should be left up to the states.
O’Connor’s ruling also comes amid the fears of transgender people that more GOP-governed states will approve legislation limiting transgender rights and will reject proposals to expand such rights.
I am not a constitutional expert but I don’t recall a “right” for a male who thinks he’s a woman to use the girl’s bathroom or a “right” that forces doctors to perform procedures that violate their conscience.
The transgender advocates appear to be saying that because there are only a few doctors who would have to violate their consciences, the rule should be implemented anyway. The argument doesn’t hold water. To force anyone to violate her religious beliefs in service to a political agenda is not only wrong, but unconstitutional.
If HHS wants to rewrite the rule to allow doctors to follow their consciences and opt out of performing transgender procedures, it would probably pass muster in the courts. But this manic desire by transgender advocates to force their views down everyone’s throat must be stopped somewhere and that federal judge in Texas took it upon himself to halt the “march of progress.”