5th Circuit Rules Govt Cannot Punish Religious Hospitals for Refusing to Perform Abortions, Gender Transitions
Religious freedom for the win.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals unanimously ruled that the government cannot punish religious hospitals for refusing to perform abortions or any gender transitioning surgeries.
The plaintiffs were the Franciscan Alliance, Christian Medical and Dental Society, and Specialty Physicians of Illinois. They claimed the procedures violated their religious beliefs.
A unanimous panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday upheld a lower court’s permanent order shielding Christian Medical and Dental Associations and Specialty Physicians of Illinois, along with Catholic hospital system Franciscan Alliance Inc, from any enforcement action under the ACA’s anti-discrimination provision, known as Section 1557, for refusing to perform the procedures, which they say would violate their religious freedom.
Circuit Judge Don Willett, joined by Circuit Judges Jennifer Elrod and Kurt Engelhardt, rejected the government’s argument that the case should be dismissed as moot because the original rule challenged by the providers had been overturned. Willett wrote that the providers still faced harm because the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) had “repeatedly refused to disavow enforcement” against them.
“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 wrote.
Therefore, the providers faced harm.
The plaintiffs sued in Wichita Falls, TX, “challenging an Obama-era HHS rule, which interpreted Section 1557 as requiring health care providers to perform abortions or gender reassignment surgery if they receive federal funding or participate in ACA exchanges.”
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor vacated parts of the rule but didn’t enter an injunction.
The Trump administration rescinded the rule in 2020.
But the Christian groups wanted the injunction:
The court remanded the case to O’Connor for further consideration. He then entered a broad injunction against enforcing 1557 against the Christian groups to require the abortion and gender reassignment services.
HHS appealed the injunction, culminating in Friday’s ruling, in which the 5th Circuit sided with the lower court order.
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