A federal court on Friday blocked a Biden administration mandate that would force religious hospitals and doctors to facilitate gender transitions against their sincerely held moral convictions.
The Eighth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals affirmed a lower court’s decision to block enforcement of the rule on the grounds that “intrusion upon the Catholic Plaintiffs’ exercise of religion is sufficient to show irreparable harm,” the filing reads.
Catholic nuns, clinics, a university, and hospitals were among the plaintiffs in the case, represented by the Becket Fund. The plaintiffs all provide medical care for transgender patients but refuse to provide gender-transition surgeries because they believe them to be harmful. Their grant of permanent injunctive relief from the lower court was preserved Friday.
Friday’s ruling, which originated in North Dakota, is one of a twin set of cases challenging the Biden mandate. The second, which originated in Texas, was decided in August by the Fifth Circuit court, which also permanently blocked the rule. The plaintiffs in the Texas case included Christian medical associations of thousands of doctors who are now protected from federal encroachment into their practices.
“We now have two different federal court of appeals saying the Biden administration is permanently blocked from forcing religious doctors and hospitals” to perform gender transitions in violation of their conscience, Luke Goodrich, attorney with the Becket Fund, said during a call with reporters.
Litigation was first initiated in 2016 over implementation of Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, an antidiscrimination clause that would have compelled religious medical institutions that receive federal funding to perform and cover gender transitions, according to the plaintiffs. Section 1557 prohibits a federally funded or administered health program or activity from denying benefits to an individual on the basis of sex as outlined in Title IX. The Biden administration doubled down on the 2016 principle in a revised rule.
During the legal fight, the Biden administration objected that the plaintiffs couldn’t prove that Section 1557 would be enforced against them because they hadn’t had the opportunity to try yet. The Eighth Circuit on Friday said this explanation amounted to a “concession that they may do so.”
As for what comes next, the Biden administration’s options for recourse are to seek re-hearing from the Eighth Circuit or to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Goodrich said.
“I doubt that the Biden Administration will pursue either of these avenues,” he added.
After an unfavorable ruling from the Fifth Circuit, the Biden Administration declined to pursue either option for recourse, suggesting they won’t attempt it this time.