(SNews) – A federal court has dealt a massive blow to Democrat President Joe Biden’s agenda by blocking his administration from forcing Christian doctors to perform sex-change surgeries.
The ruling, by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, will also protect Christian doctors and religious hospitals from being forced to perform abortions in violation of their own judgment.
The appeals court agreed with a district court’s opinion that the Obamacare mandate that requires the facilitation of sex changes posed “irreparable harm” to the plaintiffs’ “exercise of religion.”
The court ultimately found the transgender mandate unlawful and granted a coalition of Catholic healthcare professionals a permanent injunction.
They will no longer face multimillion-dollar lawsuits for refusing to perform the procedures.
The Eighth Circuit affirmed an August opinion issued by the Fifth Circuit, which struck down an interpretation of Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act.
Section 1557 prevents federally-funded healthcare programs from discriminating against patients on the basis of sex.
The National Review reported that in recent years, the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) has broadened the statute’s definition of sex discrimination to include discrimination on the basis of “termination of pregnancy” and “gender identity.”
According to the religious liberty group Becket, which represented the plaintiffs, the federal government issued a mandate in May 2016 “requiring that virtually every healthcare provider in the country be willing to perform and provide insurance coverage for gender-transition procedures.”
“The mandate made no exception for providers who believe those procedures to be harmful or object to them on religious grounds, and it applied to all patients, including children,” said the Becket summary.
Two religious hospitals and nearly 20,000 healthcare professionals across eight states challenged the mandate in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas.
The district court blocked the transsexual mandate in 2021, permanently enjoining the HHS from enforcing the “successfully challenged” Section 1557 interpretations against the Catholic plaintiffs.
The HHS under Biden-nominated Secretary Xavier Becerra appealed.
In August 2022, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously affirmed that doctors cannot be forced to perform or insure sex change surgeries in violation of their conscience and professional judgment.
The Fifth Circuit court also stated the “loss of freedoms guaranteed by the First Amendment, [the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act], and [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] all constitute per se irreparable harm.”
Unable to take the hint, the Biden administration appealed to the Eight Circuit, where the case went before Chief Judge Lavenski R. Smith and Circuit Judges Raymond Gruender and Jonathan Kobes.
The Eighth Circuit agreed with the district court and permanently blocked the transgender mandate, thereby upholding doctors’ religious freedom.
The court also highlighted how the Biden administration’s claim that it “has not to date evaluated” whether it would bring Section 1557 to bear against Christian medical professionals was itself a concession that it may do so, particularly after the HHS promised “robust enforcement of Section 1557.”
According to the court, religious objectors to the mandate faced “a credible threat of enforcement” by the HHS, which had failed to “disavow … any intent to enforce Title VII’s prohibition on gender-transition exclusions in health plans against the [religious employers].”
The Biden administration, unlikely to err on the side of religious freedom, has 45 days to ask the Eighth Circuit to rehear the case or 90 days to appeal to the Supreme Court.
Luke Goodrich, senior counsel at Becket, said, “The federal government has no business forcing doctors to violate their consciences or perform controversial procedures that could permanently harm their patients.”
“This is a common-sense ruling that protects patients, aligns with best medical practice, and ensures doctors can follow their Hippocratic Oath to ‘do no harm,’” said Goodrich.
The Becket lawyer underscored how the Biden administration’s “attempt to force doctors to go against their consciences was bad for patients, bad for doctors, and bad for religious liberty.”
While only the plaintiffs in the case will presently receive protection from these rulings, this and related rulings will provide legal precedent for future lawsuits, reported the Washington Examiner.