A federal appeals court in North Dakota has permanently blocked the federal mandate on doctors and hospitals, a mandate that would force them to perform “gender transition” surgeries and procedures against their conscience. The Biden administration is sure to appeal the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Sisters of Mercy v. Becerra is the second circuit court to block the federal mandate. In a related case, the the Fifth Circuit ruled similarly this year (Franciscan Alliance v. Becerra.)
The groups wanting to opt out of being forced to perform gender transition surgery include the Religious Sisters of Mercy; Sacred Heart Mercy Health Care Center, (Alma, MI); SMP Health System; University of Mary; Catholic Benefits Association; Diocese of Fargo; Catholic Charities of North Dakota; Catholic Medical Association and the State of North Dakota, which sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
The hospitals’ case is based on religious freedom. The federal government, through the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), says no institution that accepts federal payments for services may discriminate based on “gender.” That means that even patients covered by private insurance or are who are paying cash for services cannot be denied gender transition surgery at almost any hospital in America.
In May 2016, the government began implementing a mandate requiring a doctor to perform gender transition procedures on any patient, including children, even if the doctor believed the procedure could harm the patient.
The government required virtually all private insurance companies and many employers to cover gender reassignment therapy or face severe penalties and legal action.
Two major insurance plans were exempted from HHS’s mandate — Medicare and Medicaid, plans run by the federal government.
Research shows these so-called “gender reassignment” surgeries have serious consequences, including heart conditions, increased cancer risk, and loss of bone density. Other studies of children with gender dysphoria show that the vast majority of children with gender dysphoria outgrow their condition. The federal government’s panel of medical experts concluded these therapies can be harmful and advised against requiring coverage of them under Medicare and Medicaid.
In 2020, the government attempted to fix the unlawful rule, but that effort was blocked by other courts.
A court struck down the mandate in 2016. The federal government appealed to the Eighth Circuit, which heard oral argument on Dec. 15, 2021. A decision was expected in early 2022, but was released on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022, nearly a year later.
“The federal government has no business forcing doctors to violate their consciences or perform controversial procedures that could permanently harm their patients,” said Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. “This is a common-sense ruling that protects patients, aligns with best medical practice, and ensures doctors can follow their Hippocratic Oath to ‘do no harm.’”
“Today’s victory sets an important precedent that religious healthcare professionals are free to practice medicine in accordance with their consciences and experienced professional judgment,” Goodrich said. “The government’s attempt to force doctors to go against their consciences was bad for patients, bad for doctors, and bad for religious liberty.”
The Biden Administration has 45 days to ask the Eighth Circuit to rehear the Religious Sisters of Mercy case, or 90 days to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
More information can be found at www.transgendermandate.org.