In Texas, a federal judge has recently smacked down the federal government’s ability to penalize insurance companies and healthcare providers who ultimately refuse to conduct gender reassignment surgeries.
Reed O’Connor, who serves on the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, had originally favored the Obama initiative in 2019, though he recently changed positions in a ruling in August, citing the “substantial burden” on the varied providers’ freedom of religion.
In his opinion, O’Connor observed that the plaintiffs involved had stated that the Obamacare requirement placed a massive burden on their religious faith and beliefs, which resulted from the efforts of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to “force them to choose between federal funding and their livelihood as healthcare providers and their exercise of religion.”
In 2016, the HHS had changed a pair of statues listed under Section 1557 of Obamacare, which is also known as the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The HHS argued that the denial of care to individuals seeking gender reassignment surgeries or abortions comprised a violation of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, specifically the federal ban on sex discrimination.
The “transgender mandate” had been suspended in 2020 by the HHS, as the Trump administration sought compliance with the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) of 1993, which had ironically been sponsored by Chuck Schumer.
However, the Biden administration reinstated the transgender mandate under Biden in May.
The lawsuit regarding the transgender mandate, Franciscan Alliance v. Becerra, was initially filed in November 2016. The Franciscan Alliance consists of 20,000 healthcare professionals, along with nine states, against Xavier Becerra, Biden’s HHS Secretary.
Now, O’Connor’s decision will ultimately invalidate an executive order that Biden passed on Day 1, which aimed to revive Obamacare’s transgender mandate. Furthermore, it will also ensure that the HHS cannot interpret sex discrimination legislation in such a way that that would permit the federal government to engage in “pursuing, charging, or assessing any penalties, fines, assessments, investigations, or other enforcement actions” against healthcare providers who declined to perform abortions or gender reassignment surgeries.
O’Connor’s ruling was met with immense support from religious conservatives, including Luke Goodrich, who serves as the Becket Law Vice President and Senior Counsel.
Goodrich proclaimed that O’Connor’s ruling represents a clear “victory for compassion, conscience, and common sense,” especially since no physician should be required to conduct “controversial, medically unsupported procedures” that not only “could be deeply harmful to their patients, but also run completely “contrary to their conscience.”