A Texas federal district court permanently enjoined enforcing anti-discrimination provisions to compel health care providers to act against their conscience.
On August 9, 2021, the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Wichita Falls Division, on remand from the 5th Circuit, rendered an important decision, where it stated that provisions of the Affordable Care Act and anti-discrimination laws cannot be enforced against Christian health care providers that refuse to perform abortions or gender transition procedures.
The Affordable Care Act (so-called Obamacare), as promulgated by the Obama administration, had been interpreted to the effect that there was no religious exception allowing certain heath care providers to refuse to provide abortion or gender transition services.
Courts all over the United States decided repeatedly that these provisions were incompatible with religious liberty, until in 2020 during the Trump administration the Act was amended to allow for a religious exception. Meanwhile, led by the Franciscan Alliance, a number of Christian plaintiffs had sued the U.S. Department of Health in Texas.
The U.S. District Court has rejected the argument that the 2020 amendments to the law have solved the problem, noting that the Biden administration has announced that anti-discrimination provisions will be strictly enforced, although within the limits set by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The Court also found that compelling Christian doctors, health care providers, or insurance plans to finance, organize or perform both abortions and gender transition procedures “substantially burdens” the constitutionally protected “Christian Plaintiffs’ religious exercise.”
Irrespective of different policies by different administrations, the Court has now permanently enjoined the Ministry of Health and its divisions and bureaus “from interpreting or enforcing Section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act, 42 U.S.C. § 18116(a), or any implementing regulations thereto against Plaintiffs, their current and future members, and those acting in concert or participation with them, including their respective health plans and any insurers or third-party administrators in connection with such health plans, in a manner that would require them to perform or provide insurance coverage for gender-transition procedures or abortions, including by denying Federal financial assistance because of their failure to perform or provide insurance coverage for such procedures or by otherwise pursuing, charging, or assessing any penalties, fines, assessments, investigations, or other enforcement actions.”