President Biden’s controversial transgender mandate has been blocked after the administration failed to meet last week’s deadline to appeal a court ruling that struck down the mandate earlier this year.
The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the mandate Aug. 26, ruling that religious groups could not be required to perform procedures that violate their beliefs. The deadline for the Biden administration to appeal the decision passed Nov. 25.
“The final demise of this unconscionable mandate is a major victory for conscience rights and compassionate medical care in America,” Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel for Becket Law, told CNA.
“Thousands of doctors will be able to do their jobs without the government requiring them to perform harmful, irreversible procedures against their conscience and medical expertise,” Goodrich added.
Becket, a religious liberty nonprofit legal firm, served as counsel to thousands of Catholic and other religious medical professionals in a federal lawsuit — Franciscan Alliance v. Becerra — challenging the mandate in a continuation of a long legal battle stemming from a similar rule enacted by the Obama administration in 2016.
Religious medical groups including Franciscan Alliance, Christian Medical and Dental Society, and Specialty Physicians of Illinois fought to to stop the requirement from taking effect.
According to Goodrich, the fight will continue in a similar case pending in the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals, which is expected to issue a decision in the coming weeks.
Mandating ‘unconscionable’ procedures
If finalized, Biden’s rule would have empowered the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to force hospitals and doctors to perform gender-transition surgeries, in addition to expanding the Obama-era version of the rule to include abortion.
The rule revised Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act to add “sexual orientation and gender identity” and “reproductive health care services” including “pregnancy termination” to existing “protections against discrimination on the basis of sex.”
It also reversed Trump-era conscience protections that sought to allow medical professionals to opt out of performing procedures against their beliefs.
The proposal met with strong opposition from religious doctors, medical organizations, and the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops, which condemned the move in a statement July 27.
“[The] proposed regulations threaten our ability to carry out our healing ministries and others’ to practice medicine,” the bishops wrote. “They mandate health care workers to perform life-altering surgeries to remove perfectly healthy body parts. Assurances that HHS will honor religious freedom laws offer little comfort when HHS is actively fighting court rulings that declared HHS violated religious freedom laws the last time they tried to impose such a mandate. This is a violation of religious freedom and bad medicine.”
The HHS did not respond to CNA’s request for comment.