More than 3,000 physicians and health professionals are challenging a “gender transition mandate” from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) which requires hospitals and health care workers to participate in damaging and harmful “gender transition” procedures – “even if the procedure violates a doctor’s medical judgment or religious beliefs.”

Alliance Defending Freedom filed the lawsuit against HHS on behalf of the American College of Pediatricians (ACPeds), the Catholic Medical Association (CMA), and an OB-GYN doctor who specializes in the care of adolescents.

The announcement came in a press release from ACPeds, which explained that the physicians and health professionals object to harming individuals by affirming their sexual identity confusion and providing puberty blockers, opposite sex hormones, and surgeries on healthy reproductive organs and other body parts. 

In the news release, Dr. Michelle Cretella, Executive Director of ACPeds, stated, “To equate sex with gender identity as if children may be born in the wrong body sacrifices science and our children on the altar of political correctness. Sex is a medically significant innate and immutable binary trait that is determined by genes at fertilization. No drugs or surgeries can change a person’s sex, but so-called gender transition interventions do cause irreversible damage, especially to youth.”

ACPeds “is a national organization of pediatricians and other healthcare professionals dedicated to the health and well-being of children.”

The suit, American College of Pediatricians v. Becerra, explains that the mandate comes from an HHS rule that affects Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare). Xavier Becerra is listed in the suit in his role as secretary of HHS.

The HHS first created the rule interpreting “sex discrimination” to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” in 2016, under the Obama administration. The suit asserts that when ACA was passed, “Congress understood ‘sex’ to mean the biological binary of male and female,” not the individual or social construct “gender identity.”

That 2016 rule said the “gender identity spectrum includes an array of possible gender identities beyond male and female,” and individuals with “non-binary gender identities are protected under the rule.” It required hospitals and doctors to offer and recommend “gender interventions,” such as hysterectomies, mastectomies, hormones and drugs, if those were also provided for men and women for other, valid medical reasons, such as cancer treatment.

That HHS mandate was challenged in court, in the case Franciscan Alliance v. Burwell, and a Texas court declared in 2019 that the HHS “gender identity” mandate violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and the Administrative Procedure Act.

In 2020, HHS in the Trump administration revised the 2016 rule completely, removing the “gender identity” language. They also removed language that stated that sex discrimination included “termination of pregnancy,” which would have required health care workers to participate in abortions.

But then, as the suit says, “On January 20, 2021, immediately upon taking office, President Biden signed an executive order requiring that Section 1557 and Title IX be interpreted to include gender identity as a protected trait.”

In May 2021, the HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR) announced it would reinstate the 2016 rule, interpreting sex discrimination to include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity.” At that time, the suit says, “HHS stated its enforcement activity would comply with RFRA ‘and all other legal requirements,’ including the various district court injunctions related to Section 1557 regulations, but it did not specify how this compliance would occur.”

The ADF suit disputes this, arguing that HHS is still working against freedom of conscience and religion through its gender identity mandate: “Upon information and belief, OCR is now actively investigating, enforcing, and implementing an interpretation of Section 1557 and HHS regulations under which sex discrimination includes gender identity and sex stereotyping.”

ADF also notes that HHS is supporting the ACLU in court to overturn “a state law that protected children from gender interventions and that protected healthcare providers from providing them.” HHS looks to be defying several court injunctions against the Section 1557 mandate that health professionals perform “transitioning” procedures.

The health care professionals in the case argue that they have “medical, ethical, or religious objections” to almost two dozen procedures that the gender identity mandate would force them to participate in, including:

  • Prescribing puberty blockers off-label from the FDA-approved indication to treat gender dysphoria and initiate or further transition in adults and children.
  • Prescribing hormone therapies off-label from the FDA-approved indication to treat gender dysphoria in all adults and children.
  • Performing hysterectomies or mastectomies on healthy women who believe themselves to be men.
  • Removing the testicles of healthy men who believe themselves to be women.
  • Treating patients according to gender identity and not sex.

Dr. Quentin L. Van Meter, President of ACPeds and a pediatric endocrinologist, believes children should be helped toward embracing their bodily sexual reality, rather than treated with destructive procedures.

He said, “Puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones combined will sterilize many youth and cause them to develop serious chronic illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease, stroke and cancers that they otherwise would have never experienced.”

The press release explained that Van Meter “also emphasized that the international standard of care for youth is psychotherapeutic exploration with treatment aimed at underlying causative factors.”

While Christians work to protect people from these harmful procedures and support the religious freedom and free speech of health care professionals, we must also have compassion for those struggling with sexual identity issues – and all the abuse, trauma and mental health problems associated with gender dysphoria.

Focus on the Family has a number of transgender resources to help those struggling with these complex issues, as well as information and support for their families, friends and churches.

Related articles and resources:  

American College of Pediatricians v. Becerra was filed in the U.S. District Court Eastern District of Tennessee at Chattanooga

ACLU Sues Catholic Hospital for Cancelling Transgender Surgery

Court Rules Doctors Can’t Be Forced to Perform So-Called Gender-Transition Surgery

Federal Judge Strikes Down Rule Forcing Doctors to Perform Abortions and Transgender Surgeries

HHS to Force Religious Hospitals, Doctors to Prescribe Puberty Blockers and Perform Sex-Reassignment Surgeries

Religious Freedom Lawsuit: Court Strikes Down HHS ‘Transgender Mandate’ for Health Care

Photo from Shutterstock.