Religious healthcare providers beat ACA call for restriction

WICHITA FALLS, Texas — A federal appeals court on Monday upheld a Texas federal court ruling that exempts a group of religious health care providers from the Affordable Care Act’s abortion and gender rights requirements.

In an 18-page opinion filed Friday, the three-judge panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans upheld U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor’s permanent injunction in Wichita Falls.

The Franciscan Alliance, a network of Catholic hospitals in Indiana and Illinois, and Christian Medical & Dental associations and their 19,000 members nationwide have sued to block the Biden administration from enforcing ACA provisions they say would require them to perform abortions or bridging treatment sexual.

In her ruling last August, O’Connor interpreted US Department of Health and Human Services regulations as forcing plaintiffs to choose between their beliefs and their livelihoods, resulting in “irreparable harm.”

The 5th Circuit’s decision came as part of an HHS appeal of the O’Connor injunction and applied only to the plaintiffs in the case. However, plaintiffs hailed the ruling as a protection for healthcare professionals nationwide.

“This victory in Texas against government coercion means healthcare professionals can continue to exercise their medical judgment and ethical care based on sound medical evidence and Hippocratic standards of patient care instead of any ideology,” said said Dr. Mike Chupp, chief executive of the Christian Medical and Dental Associations.

A message to the Justice Department, which represented HHS in its appeal, did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

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