The three-judge panel in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit released the unanimous decision on Friday in the case of Franciscan Alliance, Inc. et al. v. Xavier Becerra, upholding the lower court’s permanent injunction against the mandate from the Department of Health and Human Services.
“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,” Circuit Judge Don Willett wrote.
“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,” he added.
Becket, the legal firm representing the case, celebrated the victory in a statement released on Friday.
“This ruling is a major victory for conscience rights and compassionate medical care in America,” Joseph Davis, counsel at Becket, shared.
“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 added.
Franciscan Alliance, the Catholic healthcare network in Indiana and Illinois involved in the case, along with the Christian Medical & Dental Associations and their 19,000 members, served as the plaintiffs to stop the Biden administration’s HHS effort.
“For years, our clients have provided excellent medical care to all patients who need it,” Davis added. “Today’s ruling ensures that these doctors and hospitals may continue to do this critical work in accordance with their conscience and professional medical judgment.”
The HHS issued new guidance in March that declared “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. An appeals court sided with the plaintiffs who expressed concern over the mandate’s conflict with religious liberty.
The ruling in the Fifth Circuit Court only applies to the plaintiffs in the case. The win is considered a nationwide win, however, in the battle for faith protections against those who hold religious objections to gender transition surgery or abortion procedures.
Dr. Mike Chupp, chief executive of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, told The Associated Press that the victory in the Texas court would allow for judgments based on sound medical advice.
“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,” he said.