A federal court in Texas handed down a major victory Tuesday to medical professionals who morally or ethically object to performing gender transition surgeries — a big success for religious liberty advocates.
The ruling in Franciscan Alliance v. Azar, written by Judge Reed O’Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, was in response to an Obama-era mandate from 2016 that reclassified “sex” to include “gender identity,” making any surgeons who refused to perform transition procedures for moral or ethical reasons guilty of discrimination based on “sex.”
When the lawsuit was initially brought against the Department of Health and Human Services in late 2016, the filing stated: “The rule would require plaintiffs to perform and provide insurance coverage for gender transitions and abortions contrary to their religious beliefs and medical judgment.”
Speaking to Faithwire Tuesday afternoon, Luke Goodrich, vice president and senior counsel at Becket, argued O’Connor’s ruling “makes clear” the 2016 federal mandate was “unlawful.”
The decision “ensures that doctors and hospitals across the country remain free to continue caring for transgender patients in accordance with the best medical science and their religious beliefs and medical judgment,” Goodrich said.
As the issue of transgender medical treatment only continues to evolve, the Becket attorney added it’s important “to use every protection in the legal arsenal to ensure that doctors are able to care for patients in ways that line up with sound medical science and with their religious beliefs.”
There are, Goodrich explained, strong “cultural currents” seeking to advance a new sexual ethic that wholly redefines human sexuality and what it means to be male or female. Those advances, he said, are “running into conflict with sound medical science,” adding there are “demonstrated harms” — particularly when it comes to children — associated with hormonal and surgical treatments for gender dysphoria.
As Goodrich pointed out in his own tweet thread on Tuesday’s ruling, even the medical professionals who penned the Obama-era memo regarding the treatment of transgender patients acquiesced to the fact the jury is still out on the helpfulness and healthiness of transition surgeries for those suffering from gender dysphoria.
“Based on a thorough review of the clinical evidence available at this time, there is not enough evidence to determine whether gender reassignment surgery improves health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries with gender dysphoria,” the memo reads. “There were conflicting (inconsistent) study results — of the best-designed studies, some reported benefits while others reported harms.”
Furthermore, the ruling comes weeks after a psychiatry professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore admitted hormonal treatments for gender dysphoric children is “reckless and irresponsible,” noting there isn’t much research available to understand the longterm implications of interfering with the pubertal process.
“[Doctors] don’t have evidence that [the treatment] will be the right one,” said Dr. Paul McHugh. “Many people are doing what amounts to an experiment on these young people without telling them it’s an experiment.”
As for the clients in the medical community Becket was representing, Goodrich said they have served “all clients, without regard to their sex or their gender identity, and they are eager to provide top-notch care to transgender clients for everything from cancer to the common cold.”
“They welcome this ruling precisely because it allows them to continue providing excellent care for all patients, including transgender patients, in accordance with both their conscience and sound medical judgment,” he added.