Religious freedom and pro-life advocates commended a new federal court decision that protects freedom of conscience for health-care professionals.
In an Oct. 15 ruling, federal judge Reed O’Connor annulled a 2016 Obama-era rule that required doctors to perform gender transition procedures or treatments, as well as abortions. The opinion affirmed an earlier decision by O’Connor, who granted a nationwide, preliminary injunction against the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) regulation on Jan. 31, 2016, a day before it was to take effect.
“This ruling frees doctors from having to fear a choice between obedience to the law and obedience to conscience,” said Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, in written comments to Baptist Press. “It is in the best interest of all Americans to have a government that respects, not smothers, the conscience rights of others. I’m glad to see this court agree.”
Luke Goodrich — vice president of the religious freedom organization Becket — called the ruling “a major victory for compassion, conscience, and sound medical judgment.”
“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,” he said in a written statement.
Becket is representing the Christian Medical Association (CMA) — the country’s largest faith-based, professional medical organization — and the Franciscan Network — a Roman Catholic hospital system — in their legal challenge to the HHS rule. Nine states also filed suit.
Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life Susan B. Anthony List, called the opinion “an important victory.” She said in a written statement, “Abortion is not health care and should never be mandated by the government.”
HHS, under the Trump administration, proposed in May of this year a new regulation to rescind the Obama administration’s 2016 rule. The new regulation has yet to take effect, however.
In his opinion, O’Connor — a judge in the Northern District of Texas — said he was adopting the reasoning from his 2016 decision, including that the HHS regulation violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. That 1993 federal law requires the government to have a compelling interest and use the narrowest possible means in burdening a person’s religious exercise.
In granting an injunction nearly three years ago, O’Connor ruled the challengers to the HHS transgender/abortion mandate had demonstrated they likely would succeed because the rule redefined “sex discrimination” and failed to protect religious freedom.
Click here to read more.
Source: Baptist Press