Fifth Circuit protects doctors’ conscience and medical judgments
A federal appeals court just blocked a harmful Health and Human Services (HHS) mandate that would have forced doctors and hospitals to perform gender-transition procedures on their patients against their conscience and best medical judgment.
In Franciscan Alliance v. Becerra, the court ruled that a Catholic healthcare network and a group of nearly 19,000 healthcare professionals cannot be required to carry out these procedures in violation of their deeply held beliefs and professional medical judgment.
In the unanimous ruling, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the lower court’s order “permanently enjoining [HHS] from requiring Franciscan Alliance to perform gender-reassignment surgeries or abortions in violation of its sincerely held religious beliefs.”
The court explained that while the government argued it should get more chances to show why it needed religious healthcare providers to participate in gender-transition procedures, other cases showed that permanent protection was appropriate—including, ironically, cases brought by the ACLU, who had intervened in Franciscan to support the government.
“This ruling is a major victory for conscience rights and compassionate medical care in America,” said Joseph Davis, counsel at Becket. “Doctors cannot do their jobs and comply with the Hippocratic Oath if the government requires them to perform harmful, irreversible procedures against their conscience and medical expertise.”
Six years ago, the federal government issued the mandate as part of the Affordable Care Act and tried to apply it to virtually every doctor nationwide. The requirement would have forced doctors to perform these procedures on any patient, including on children, even if the procedures went against their conscience and professional medical judgment. A group of religious organizations and nine states quickly sued and received protection from federal courts in North Dakota and in Texas. Today’s ruling is another successful step in this fight to protect doctors’ conscience rights.
“For years, our clients have provided excellent medical care to all patients who need it,” said Davis. “Today’s ruling ensures that these doctors and hospitals may continue to do this critical work in accordance with their conscience and professional medical judgment.”
- Fifth Circuit decision in Franciscan Alliance v. Becerra (August 26, 2022)
Case page for Franciscan Alliance v. Becerra (press releases & legal documents)