Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Suit Challenges New HHS Rules On Discrimination Against Transgender Individuals

A lawsuit was filed in a Texas federal court yesterday by a religiously-affiliated hospital network, two medical associations and the states of Texas, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Kentucky and Kansas challenging new rules (full text) adopted by the Department of Health and Human Services in May barring discrimination on the basis of gender identity in the delivery of medical services by, among others, health facilities receiving federal financial assistance.  The 79-page complaint (full text) in Franciscan Alliance, Inc. v. Burwell, (ND TX, filed 8/23/2016), contends that the new regulations infringe free speech, free exercise and due process rights of plaintiffs, as well as their rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. It also contends that the regulations infringe states' rights in various ways.  The complaint focuses particularly on requirements relating to provision of gender transition procedures, saying in part:
On pain of significant financial liability, the Regulation forces doctors to perform controversial and sometimes harmful medical procedures ostensibly designed to permanently change an individual’s sex—including the sex of children. Under the new Regulation, a doctor must perform these procedures even when they are contrary to the doctor’s medical judgment and could result in significant, long-term medical harm. Thus, the Regulation represents a radical invasion of the federal bureaucracy into a doctor’s medical judgment....
The Regulation not only forces healthcare professionals to violate their medical judgment, it also forces them to violate their deeply held religious beliefs. Plaintiffs include the Christian Medical & Dental Associations ... and Franciscan Alliance, a network of religious hospitals founded by the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration. These religious organizations are deeply committed to the dignity of every human person, and their doctors care for everyone with joy and compassion. They eagerly provide comprehensive care to society’s most vulnerable populations, but their religious beliefs will not allow them to perform medical transition procedures that can be deeply harmful to their patients.....
Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton issued a press release announcing the filing of the lawsuit, and saying in part:
This is the thirteenth lawsuit I have been forced to bring against the Obama Administration’s continued threats on constitutional rights of Texans. The federal government has no right to force Texans to pay for medical procedures designed to change a person’s sex.
Becket Fund which represents the medical association plaintiffs also issued a press release.  Texas Tribune, reporting on the lawsuit, says that the case has been assigned to the same judge who earlier this week blocked federal Guidelines on transgender students' rights under Title IX from going into effect. (See prior posting.)