A federal appeals court on Friday struck down a Biden administration statute that forced doctors to perform medical procedures, including gender-transition procedures, against their religious beliefs.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit unanimously upheld a lower court’s ruling in Franciscan Alliance v. Becerra which protected around 19,000 health care professionals in Franciscan Alliance, a Catholic health care network, from performing medical procedures against their conscience.
The lower court’s ruling had permanently prohibited the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service (HHS) “from requiring Franciscan Alliance to perform gender-transition surgeries or abortions in violation of its sincerely held religious beliefs.”
Becket, the legal counsel representing Franciscan Alliance, said the court explained that permanent protection from the statute was appropriate for health care workers.
“This ruling is a major victory for conscience rights and compassionate medical care in America,” said Joseph Davis, counsel at Becket, in a statement. “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.”
The court noted that the Biden administration argued for more chances to show why it needed religious health care providers to participate in gender-transition surgeries, but that the ACLU, a co-appellant, cited a previous case that worked against their argument, according to court documents (pdf).
“For years, our clients have provided excellent medical care to all patients who need it,” Davis said. “Today’s ruling ensures that these doctors and hospitals may continue to do this critical work in accordance with their conscience and professional medical judgment.”
The mandate was first issued six years ago as part of the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare. Becket noted that this applied to “virtually every doctor nationwide.”
Section 1557 of Obamacare prohibits health care programs that receive federal funds from discriminating against patients on the basis of sex.