Two dozen state attorneys general are joining a lawsuit against the Trump administration, seeking to block a new rule that protects healthcare workers’ right to object to performing abortions or gender reassignment surgeries.

States such as New York, California, Massachusetts, Washington, Michigan, and Pennsylvania have joined the lawsuit, filed July 20 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

“It is never acceptable to deny health care to Americans who need it, but it is especially egregious to do so in the middle of a pandemic,” New York Attorney General Letitia James, who is leading the suit, told the Wall Street Journal.

The Department of Health and Human Services on June 12 promulgated a rule to protect doctors’ right to object to abortion and gender reassignment operations, clarifying that bans on sex-based discrimination do not include gender identity or abortion.

The HHS said that its final rule eliminates portions of a 2016 regulation that had inappropriately expanded the definition of sex discrimination.

At the time of the announcement, the USCCB pro-life committee, led by Archbishop Joseph Naumann of Kansas City in Kansas, issued a statement “applauding” the proposed changes and saying the bishops were “grateful” the administration was taking the “important step.”

“These modifications follow the legislative intent of the Affordable Care Act to ensure nondiscrimination on the basis of sex in health care,” the statement said.

Catholic leaders in the US have continually maintained that surgical or hormonal interventions for people suffering from gender dysphoria are not merciful. Nevertheless, the issue ought to be approached with compassion and sensitivity, while also adhering to Church teaching and the truth.

According to a Catholic understanding of the human person, people are a union of body and soul, and that body is “created male or female,” Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield in Illinois wrote in recent guidance for Catholic schools in his diocese.

The Church considers any medical interventions that remove or destroy healthy reproductive organs as “a type of mutilation and intrinsically evil. Procedures, surgeries, and therapies designed to assist a person in ‘transitioning’ his or her gender are morally prohibited,” he noted.

Just as anorexia is a condition in which one’s perception is separated from reality, Paprocki noted, gender dysphoria is a similar separation of perception and reality, and those with the condition should be helped to accept reality rather than their false perception of it.

“None the less, the presentation of this truth must be made with love, compassion, and patience. As the policy itself states, our schools, parishes and other institutions embrace with compassion those families and individuals with gender dysphoria and patiently supports them in their journey,” he said.

A 2016 letter to the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services signed by the general counsel for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, together with other groups, affirmed that refusing surgery to someone seeking surgery that would allegedly change their gender would not be discriminatory.

“It is not ‘discrimination’ when a hospital provides care it considers appropriate, declines to perform procedures destructive to patients’ welfare and well-being, or declines to take actions that undermine the health, safety, and privacy of other patients,” the letter said.

“A hospital does not engage in ‘discrimination’ when, for example, it performs a mastectomy or hysterectomy on a woman with breast or uterine cancer, respectively, but declines to perform such a procedure on a woman with perfectly healthy breasts or uterus who is seeking to have the appearance of a man.”

Several US Catholic hospitals have faced lawsuits for declining to conduct transgender surgeries.

In mid-June, the Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that employers cannot fire workers because of their sexual orientation or self-determined gender identity. That decision is being used in a lawsuit brought by a Maryland person who identifies as transgender, who is suing a Catholic hospital for refusing to perform a hysterectomy on the person’s healthy uterus.

Earlier this month, the Supreme Court upheld the HHS’ 2017 religious and moral exemption to the Affordable Care Act’s contraceptive mandate, which the administration had crafted for the Little Sisters of the Poor and other objecting groups.