On Tuesday, a federal court in Texas ruled that doctors are not required to perform gender-transition surgeries if the procedure in question violates their medical judgment or religious beliefs.
Becket Fund for Religious Liberty described the ruling as a "huge victory" for the conscience rights of medical professionals across the nation.
A federal mandate written during the Obama administration had threatened to force religious doctors out of practice if they would not perform gender-transition procedures that would violate medical judgment and beliefs. The US District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled against the mandate striking down the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulation.
Three years ago, the HHS issued the regulation that would have required every doctor to perform gender-transition procedures on any patient referred by a mental health professional, even if the doctor believed the treatment could harm the patient.
Doctors who refused would have faced severe consequences, including losing their job.
Tuesday's ruling that the regulation is unlawful aligns with two previous court decisions, accepted medical research, and a recent HHS proposal keeping the government out of the private medical decisions of patients.
"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," said Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at Becket. "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."
History of the Fight Against Obama-Era Mandate
An association of over 19,000 health care professionals, nine states, and several religious organizations filed two lawsuits against the mandate, arguing that it was inconsistent with federal law and would force doctors to violate the Hippocratic Oath, which requires doctors to act in the best interest of their patients.
In December 2016, two different federal courts ruled that the policy was an unlawful overreach by a federal agency and a violation of the conscience rights of medical professionals. In May 2019, HHS released a proposed new rule which would fix the transgender mandate and keep the federal government from interfering in decisions that should remain between doctors and their patients, but the previous rule remained on the books while the proposal was being considered.
"Today marks a major victory for compassion, conscience, and sound medical judgment," said Goodrich. "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."