The U.S. Federal District Court for the Northern District of Texas has overturned an Obama Administration regulation that would have forced doctors to provide so-called gender-transition surgeries even if it conflicted with their conscience or deeply held religious beliefs. U.S. District Judge Reed O’Conner struck down the mandate upholding basic religious liberty and conscience protections guaranteed by the First Amendment. 

The mandate was originally released by the Obama Administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in 2016. Yet, “An association of over 19,000 healthcare professionals, nine states, and several religious organizations filed” two different lawsuits against the Administration. The regulation was then put on hold when two federal courts ruled in 2016 that the mandate was an unlawful overreach of executive power and violated the rights of doctors. 

Under the Trump Administration, earlier this year HHS proposed a new rule which would restore the rights of doctors to treat patients as they deem best. Since the proposed rule has not yet taken effect, the judge in this case reaffirmed his earlier ruling that the Obama Administration’s mandate was unlawful.

In a press release, the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a non-profit religious liberty law firm celebrated the ruling.

Becket noted that this mandate, if it had gone into effect, would have applied to practically every doctor around the country. It would have applied to doctors who have a religious objection to providing gender-transition surgery. It also would have applied to doctors who do not wish to provide the surgery because they believe it is bad medicine and would harm the patient.

Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at Becket said, “It is critically important that doctors are able to continue serving patients in keeping with their consciences and their professional medical judgment, especially when it comes to the personal health choices of families and children. Doctors cannot do their jobs if government bureaucrats are trying to force them to perform potentially harmful procedures that violate their medical and moral judgment.” 

In an article covering the news, The Hill noted: “Advocates argue removing protections for gender identity would allow health care providers, hospitals and insurers to discriminate against transgender patients.” 

Goodrich responded to this kind of argument in Becket’s press release. “Our clients look forward to joyfully continuing to serve all patients, regardless of their sex or gender identity, and continuing to provide top-notch care to transgender patients for everything from cancer to the common cold.” 

In other words, doctors do not discriminate against transgender patients when they choose not to provide so-called gender-transition surgery. They are willing to provide those same patients with other medical help, just not surgery that would be harmful to their body.

Importantly, gender-transition surgery is not good medicine. Medicine and surgery treat sicknesses and ills that are inhibiting the body’s natural functions. So-called gender-transition surgery does the opposite by harming parts of the body that are performing correctly. For this reason, gender-transition surgery isn’t medical care. It’s medical malpractice.

The ruling will likely be appealed, but for now the religious liberty and rights of doctors to practice medicine the best they know how has been preserved. The Hippocratic oath that doctors take, to do no harm, has survived yet another attack. For now. 

The case is Franciscan Alliance v. Azar

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Photo from Becket Law