WIN: Federal appeals court strikes down HHS First Amendment infringement

by Laura Ramirez

Photo: Adobe Stock

A federal appeals court handed down a massive win for the First Amendment, preventing the government from forcing healthcare professionals to carry out procedures, such as sex-change surgery and abortion, despite religious objections.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, in a unanimous ruling, held a lower court’s order “permanently enjoining [HHS] from requiring Franciscan Alliance to perform gender-reassignment surgeries or abortions in violation of its sincerely held religious beliefs,” Becket, the legal firm representing the Catholic healthcare network Franciscan Alliance and roughly 19,000 healthcare professionals announced last Friday.

The decision comes after the Department of Health and Human Services announced new guidelines in March, maintaining “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, the Daily Wire reported.

“Just months ago HHS issued the 2022 Notice, which warned covered entities like Franciscan Alliance that refusing to offer gender-reassignment surgeries violates Section 1557,” the ruling stated. “HHS has also repeatedly refused to disavow enforcement against Franciscan Alliance. In its brief on appeal, HHS simply says it ‘has not to date evaluated’ whether it will enforce Section 1557 against Franciscan Alliance — in other words, it concedes that it may.”

“In all other respects, the judgment of the district court is AFFIRMED,” the three-judge panel concluded.

Joseph Davis, counsel at Becket, celebrated the victory, saying, “This ruling is a major victory for conscience rights and compassionate medical care in America.”

“Doctors cannot do their jobs and comply with the Hippocratic Oath if the government requires them to perform harmful, irreversible procedures against their conscience and medical expertise,” he continued.

While the ruling applies only to the plaintiffs, healthcare professionals celebrate the victory as a significant win for healthcare professionals across the country, per the Associated Press.

“This victory in Texas against government coercion means healthcare professionals can continue to exercise medical judgment and ethical care based upon sound medical evidence and Hippocratic standards of patient care instead of any ideology,” Dr. Mike Chupp, chief executive of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations, said.

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