The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans heard oral arguments Aug. 4 in Franciscan Alliance v. Becerra, a challenge to a federal mandate that requires doctors to perform gender transition procedures even if this violates their conscience and medical judgment.
"Franciscan Alliance and the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration seek to carry on Jesus Christ's healing ministry by providing the best possible care to every person who comes through our doors," said Sister Petra Nielsen, a Sister of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, who is a member of the Franciscan Alliance's corporate board.
"We are simply asking the courts to let us keep caring for all our patients with joy and compassion -- as we've done for over 145 years," she said in a statement released by Becket, a Washington-based religious liberty law firm representing the plaintiffs.
"We asked the court today to let doctors keep caring for all patients with compassion, conscience and common sense," said Becket counsel Joseph Davis. "We are hopeful the court will agree that the transgender mandate clearly violates federal law and doctors' freedom of conscience."
In 2016, the federal government under the Obama administration began implementing a mandate requiring doctors to perform gender transition procedures on any patient, including children, and required private insurance companies -- except plans run by Medicare and Medicaid -- and many employers to cover gender reassignment therapy or face severe penalties and legal action.
In August of that year, Becket, joined by eight state governments, filed a lawsuit in Texas against the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services on behalf of Franciscan Alliance, a religious hospital network sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations.
After years of litigation, including an appeal to the 5th Circuit and a remand to the lower court, the District Court granted the doctors and hospitals in the case involved permanent relief from the mandate and protected their medical conscience rights.
The Biden administration appealed to keep the mandate in place. Secretary Xavier Becerra heads HHS under President Joe Biden.
In a separate action, the HHS civil rights office July 25 released proposed regulations that could force health care workers to perform gender transition procedures; require health insurance plans to cover those costs; and likely remove federal conscience protection for those in health care who object to performing abortions.
On Aug. 4, the proposal was published by the Federal Register, opening a 60-day period for public comment that can be submitted at https://bit.ly/3vEM4Bl.