AUSTIN, Texas — A federal judge in Texas has halted a rule issued by the Obama administration that some believe might require doctors to aid patients who desire to undergo gender transition treatments—from hormone therapy to mastectomies—despite their convictions or belief that the procedure would not be beneficial for the person.
“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,” declared Judge Reed O’Connor on Saturday, who also had halted a rule regarding “transgender” restroom use at public schools this past summer.
He found that the hospital regulations would likely violate the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
As previously reported, Texas, Wisconsin, Kentucky, Nebraska, Arizona, Louisiana, Mississippi and Kansas all filed suit over the matter in August, as well as the Christian Medical and Dental Association and the Roman Catholic Franciscan Alliance.
The states challenged a rule released by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that “builds on prior federal civil rights laws to prohibit sex discrimination in health care.”
“The final rule requires that women be treated equally with men in the health care they receive and also prohibits the denial of health care or health coverage based on an individual’s sex, including discrimination based on pregnancy, gender identity, and sex stereotyping,” the document released by HHS outlines.
The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty noted that the preamble to the rules outlined that doctors who accept Medicare or Medicaid will be required to provide the same services to transgendered individuals that they would normally offer to others, if those services are considered “medically necessary to treat gender dysphoria.”
“The rule requires covered employers, and their healthcare providers and professionals, to perform (or refer for) medical transition procedures (such as hysterectomies, mastectomies, hormone treatments, plastic surgery, etc.), if a physician or healthcare provider offers analogous services in other contexts,” it wrote in its brief.
“For example, in the preamble, HHS stated, ‘A provider specializing in gynecological services that previously declined to provide a medically necessary hysterectomy for a transgender man would have to revise its policy to provide the procedure for transgender individuals in the same manner it provides the procedure for other individuals,’” the organization noted.
The rules were set to go into effect today, Jan. 1, but O’Connor sided with the Plaintiffs in granting a temporary injunction while the case moves forward in court.
“While this lawsuit involves many issues of great importance—state sovereignty, expanded healthcare coverage, anti-discrimination protections, and medical judgment—ultimately, the question before the court is whether Defendants exceeded their authority under the ACA (Administrative Procedure Act) in the challenged regulations’ interpretation of sex discrimination and whether the regulation violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as applied to Private Plaintiffs,” he wrote.
White House spokeswoman Katie Hill expressed disappointment over the development.
“Today’s decision is a setback, but hopefully a temporary one, since all Americans—regardless of their sex or sexual orientation—should have access to quality, affordable health care free from discrimination,” she said in a statement.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver chimed in on the matter on Monday, stating, “Our First Amendment protects everyone, even doctors, from being forced to take disastrous actions opposing their religious beliefs. These patients, and especially children, need to find a safe environment to address the roots of their desire for sex-change surgery. Oftentimes, surgical mutilation does nothing to heal the hurt and heart of the matter. These people need to be lovingly counseled, not cut up.”