Judge Blocks Obama Administration Rules on Health Care

Darin HammondJan 03, 2017

US District Judge Reed O'Connor ordered the halt to another Obamacare effort to strengthen transgender rights, this time over health rules that according to social conservatives could force doctors and health practitioners to violate their religious beliefs.

A federal judge issued an order "barring enforcement of an Obama administration policy seeking to extend anti-discrimination protections under the Affordable Care Act to transgender health and abortion-related services".

Read the full story first reported by Buzzfeed reported Chris Geidner.

No indication has yet been given as to whether the federal government will appeal O'Connor's ruling to the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. It applies to health care providers, hospitals and doctors that accept federal dollars and insurance plans offered through the federal market place.

His ruling was the result of a lawsuit brought by Texas and a handful of other states. The opinion states that the ACA anti-discrimination provision "violates [doctor's] religious freedom and thwarts their independent medical judgement". "For example, the Rule's preamble explains that '[a] provider specializing in gynecological services that previously declined to provide a medically necessary hysterectomy [removal of the uterus] for a transgender man would have to revise its policy to provide the procedure for transgender individuals in the same manner it provides the procedure for other individuals'".

The health care providers and the state are claiming that the federal government is redefining the term "sex" to "thwart decades of settled precedent" and impose "massive new obligations" on health care providers. They could seek to repeal the order, or they could request that O'Connor limit his ruling exclusively to the individual plaintiffs in the case.

As hospitals and health centers could face the crippling loss of Medicaid and Medicare funding if they do not obey the regulation, O'Connor wrote in a 62-page ruling that the mandate likely violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act since it does not include any religious exemptions required by Title IX. Under the new rule, a physician that believes that certain treatments are not in a patient's best interests may be in violation of federal law. He also sided with Texas in a separate case in August where he stopped the Obama administration from enforcing guidelines that were aimed at expanding restroom access for transgender students across the country.

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