In a win for religious freedom, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has permanently blocked the Biden administration’s attempt to force religious doctors and hospitals to perform so-called gender “transition” surgeries.
In Sisters of Mercy v. Becerra, a coalition of Catholic hospitals, nuns, and a Catholic university that run health clinics for the poor sued the Biden administration over a Department of Health and Human Services mandate that would have compelled religious doctors and hospitals to administer mutilative gender “reassignment” surgeries — even if the surgeries violated the health-care provider’s conscience.
The mandate, which was first issued in 2016, interpreted the Affordable Care Act to require doctors to perform such surgeries on any patient — including children — even if the medical provider believed the surgery would harm the patient.
The Eighth Circuit’s opinion comes after the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled this past August that the Affordable Care Act could not require doctors to perform cross-gender surgeries if it violated their conscience. The Eighth Circuit affirmed the Louisiana-based appeals court decision.
“We agree with these courts and therefore conclude that the district court correctly held that ‘intrusion upon the Catholic Plaintiffs’ exercise of religion is sufficient to show irreparable harm,’” the eighth circuit wrote in its decision.
While the Eighth Circuit’s ruling is not a nationwide injunction (only the named parties are its beneficiaries), it does set a helpful precedent for religious liberty cases in the future.
“Today’s victory sets an important precedent that religious healthcare professionals are free to practice medicine in accordance with their consciences and experienced professional judgment,” Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at Becket Law, said in a press release. “The government’s attempt to force doctors to go against their consciences was bad for patients, bad for doctors, and bad for religious liberty.”
The Biden administration has 60 days to ask the Eighth Circuit to re-hear the case or 90 days to appeal to the Supreme Court.
There is a growing body of research that points to the detrimental effects of cross-gender “reassignment” surgeries, including but not limited to serious heart conditions, loss of bone density, loss of fertility, and increased cancer risk.