Conscience Protections for Medical Professionals

Jan 28, 2021

The U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota blocked a requirement known as the “Transgender Mandate” that would force medical professionals and religious hospitals to perform surgery on and provide hormone drugs to people when doing so would violate their sincerely held religious beliefs. 

In Sisters of Mercy v. Azar, an order of Catholic nuns, a Catholic university, and Catholic healthcare organizations sued the federal government challenging a provision of the Affordable Care Act that would have forced doctors to perform surgery and provide hormone drugs even if doing so would violate their religious beliefs and medical judgment. 

The federal court, citing the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, upheld conscience protections for healthcare providers and struck down the mandate.

In 2016, the Obama administration issued a mandate, applicable to nearly every healthcare provider in the country, interpreting the Affordable Care Act to require them to remove healthy body parts and provide opposite sex hormones, even if the doctor believed the procedure could harm the patient. Doctors who refused to violate their medical judgment would have faced severe consequences, including financial penalties and private lawsuits. Immediately, religious organizations and states sued, challenging the legality of the mandate in multiple courts. In 2016, a federal court in North Dakota put the rule on hold, and in 2019 another federal court in Texas struck it down. In June 2020, HHS passed a new rule aimed at walking back the requirement, but other courts have blocked that new rule. The ruling in Sisters of Mercy is the second ruling from a federal court blocking the “Transgender Mandate.” 

Liberty Counsel’s Founder and Chairman Mat Staver said, “Healthcare providers should not be forced to violate their best medical judgement or sincerely held religious beliefs. There is no room for political agendas in the doctor-patient relationship.” 

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