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Religious doctors can’t be forced to perform sex-change procedures, court rules

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October 15, 2019 (LifeSiteNews) – Judge Reed O’Connor of the Northern District of Texas handed religious medical professionals a win Tuesday by ruling against an Obama-era requirement that would have forced them to provide “gender-reassignment” treatment against their will.

In 2016, five states – Kansas, Kentucky, Nebraska, Texas, and Wisconsin – joined the Franciscan Alliance, the Christian Medical Association, Specialty Physicians of Illinois, the Christian Dental Association, and other healthcare providers in a lawsuit against the Obama administration’s rule that “sex” discrimination covers “gender identity” and “termination of pregnancy.”

They argue that the decree, if enforced, would essentially force Christian hospitals and other healthcare nonprofits to allow gender-confused persons to use restrooms facilities of the opposite sex, as well as insurance coverage for abortions and gender “transitions.”

O’Connor granted the plaintiffs a temporary injunction against enforcing the rule, which the Trump administration said it would review. O’Connor ruled in December that the case could proceed so as not to leave the plaintiffs in legal limbo, and Tuesday issued a ruling siding with the religious groups in Franciscan Alliance v. Azar.

“The Court holds that the Rule, which expressly prohibits religious exemptions, substantially burdens Private Plaintiffs’ religious exercise in violation of” the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), O’Connor wrote. “The Court ... now HOLDS that the Rule violates the APA and RFRA. Accordingly, the Court vacates and remands the Rule for further consideration.” 

O’Connor did not issue a nationwide injunction against applying the rule to unrelated parties, noting there is “currently no indication that, once the Rule is vacated, Defendants will defy the Court’s order and attempt to apply the Rule against Plaintiffs or similarly situated non-parties.”

“Today marks a major victory for compassion, conscience, and sound medical judgment,” responded Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel of Becket Law, which represented Franciscan Alliance. “Our clients look forward to joyfully continuing to serve all patients, regardless of their sex or gender identity, and continuing to provide top-notch care to transgender patients for everything from cancer to the common cold.”

“It is critically important that doctors are able to continue serving patients in keeping with their consciences and their professional medical judgment, especially when it comes to the personal health choices of families and children,” Goodrich added. “Doctors cannot do their jobs if government bureaucrats are trying to force them to perform potentially harmful procedures that violate their medical and moral judgment.”

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