It has been widely feared that the Biden administration would interpret the Affordable Care Act (ACA) as requiring religious health care providers to perform abortions or gender transition against their conscience. However, an injunction order issued by a federal judge in favor of religious health care providers shall ensure that they will now be able to heave a sigh of relief
Permanent Injunction On ACA Rules In Favor Of Religious Health Care Providers Issued
In Northern District of Texas, US District Court Judge Reed O’Connor interpreted that the Health and Human Services regulations (HHS) force the plaintiffs to choose between their beliefs and their livelihood. The US HHS had argued that it doesn’t require religious healthcare providers to offer such procedures and has never threatened any enforcement activity against any religious entity. Judge O’Connor issued the injunction based on an earlier ruling that found that HHS violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. During the earlier ruling, O’Connor also voided the disputed portions of the law.
The injunction will now allow health care providers including doctors and hospitals to offer the best possible treatments and top-notch healthcare to their patients without affecting their conscience. This injunction shall benefit the plaintiffs – Franciscan Alliance that has close to 19000 members worldwide. The Biden administration is planning to appeal the ruling.
This case began in the year 2016 under Obama Administration when the Affordable Care Act-related rules were issued by the HHS. The rules required that medical healthcare providers participating in federally funded programs shall have to act in accordance with the rules irrespective of their religious beliefs.
The ACA barred discrimination based on factors including sex, including gender identity, and pregnancy status, such as “termination of pregnancy.”, etc. So, religious healthcare institutions needed to perform abortions or hysterectomies, or other similar procedures even though their conscience or their religious values didn’t allow these. During the Trump administration, the religious exemptions were strengthened though no full-fledged injunction was passed during the Trump regime.
Attorney Luke Goodrich represented the plaintiffs on behalf of a legal organization focusing on religious liberties. He has applauded and welcomed the decision of the federal judge. The opposing attorney Omar Gonzalez-Pagan on the other hand said that the plaintiffs were fabricating a controversy and that there has been no threat of enforcement against the plaintiffs. According to him, there are conflicting federal court decisions on defining sex discrimination in the ACA rules. He believes that at some point in time there will be a consensus on defining cases of discrimination.
This injunction decision shall now help resolve a long-continued debate between conservative health care providers and the HHS. This decision shall lead to a series of rulings in the appellate courts.
According to Lindsey Kaley, the staff attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union’s Center for Liberty, the ruling shall not change the fact for transgender people who have been turned away from healthcare. Gender-affirming care is necessary for transgenders and they shall continue to pursue litigation in the future.