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Biden admin. abandons push to force Catholic doctors to perform sex-change surgeries

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services building is shown August 16, 2006, in Washington, D.C. The HHS building, also known as the Hubert H. Humphrey building, is located at the foot of Capitol Hill and is named for Humphrey, who served as a U.S. senator from Minnesota and vice president of the United States.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services building is shown August 16, 2006, in Washington, D.C. The HHS building, also known as the Hubert H. Humphrey building, is located at the foot of Capitol Hill and is named for Humphrey, who served as a U.S. senator from Minnesota and vice president of the United States. | Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Biden administration has declined to appeal a federal court ruling blocking its requirement that Catholic healthcare professionals perform or assist with gender transition surgeries even if doing so violates their religious beliefs.

Becket Law announced in a statement Wednesday that the Biden administration declined to appeal a Dec. 9 decision from the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals preventing the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services from enforcing a 2016 rule that would have the effect of forcing religious healthcare professionals to perform body-mutilating gender transition surgeries in violation of their deeply held beliefs. The administration had until Tuesday to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court. 

The rule in question, implemented in 2016 during the Obama administration, required recipients of federal financial assistance to “treat individuals consistent with their gender identity, except that a covered entity may not deny or limit health services that are ordinarily or exclusively available to individuals of one sex, or to a transgender individual based on the fact that the individual’s assigned sex at birth, gender identity, or gender otherwise recorded is different from the one to which such health services are ordinarily or exclusively available.” 

Plaintiff organizations the Religious Sisters of Mercy, Sacred Heart Mercy Health Care Center in Alma, Michigan, SMP Health System, the University of Mary, the Catholic Benefits Association, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Fargo, Catholic Charities of North Dakota and the Catholic Medical Association filed a federal lawsuit in the North Dakota.

The plaintiffs asked the court to provide injunctive relief from the requirement to perform or cover gender transition surgeries.

The district court granted their request in early 2021, concluding that “the [Religious Freedom Restoration Act] entitles the Catholic Plaintiffs to permanent injunctive relief from the provision or coverage of gender-transition procedures.” The Biden administration appealed the district court’s ruling to the 8th Circuit, which affirmed the lower court’s judgment in December.

Becket Vice President and Senior Counsel Luke Goodrich described the development, which follows years of litigation, as “a win for patients, conscience, and common sense.” He expressed gratitude for the plaintiffs who brought the lawsuit, described as doctors and hospitals that “provide vital care to patients in need, including millions of dollars in free and low-cost care to the elderly, poor, and underserved.” 

“After multiple defeats in court, the federal government has thrown in the towel in its controversial, medically unsupported transgender mandate,” he added. “Doctors take a solemn oath to ‘do no harm,’ and they can’t keep that oath if the federal government is forcing them to perform harmful, irreversible procedures against their conscience and medical expertise.” 

Another federal court decision blocked the Biden administration’s efforts to require healthcare providers to perform or cover gender transition surgeries.

Last year, HHS issued a notice declaring that “federally-funded covered entities restricting an individual’s ability to receive medically necessary care, including gender-affirming care, from their health care provider solely on the basis of their sex assigned at birth or gender identity likely violates Section 1557” of the Affordable Care Act.

An August 2022 decision from the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the implementation of the rule.

As explained in its Wednesday statement, Becket also represented the plaintiffs in that case, a religious hospital network sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations. Much like the 8th Circuit ruling, the Biden administration declined to appeal the 5th Circuit ruling to the Supreme Court by the deadline, leaving it in place. 

“The rulings mark a victory for compassionate, evidence-based healthcare and protect religious doctors and hospitals across the country from suffering multimillion-dollar penalties for following their religious beliefs, conscience, and informed medical judgment,” Becket stated.

Ryan Foley is a reporter for The Christian Post. He can be reached at: ryan.foley@christianpost.com

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