August 31, 2022

Fifth Circuit Rules Government Cannot Force Christian Hospitals to Commit Abortions

On October 26, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the federal government could not use the Affordable Care Act to force Christian medical groups to commit abortions or perform gender transition surgeries.

In Franciscan Alliance v Becerra the Fifth Circuit unanimously affirmed a lower court's permanent injunction against an Obama-era HHS rule. The rule would abuse the Affordable Care Act to force health care providers to offer abortion and gender reassignment surgery if the provider receives federal funding or participates in ACA exchanges. The HHS appealed this injunction, which led to the fifth circuit's ruling last Friday.

"In its brief on appeal, HHS simply says it ‘has not to date evaluated’ whether it will enforce Section 1557 against Franciscan Alliance – in other words, it concedes that it may," Circuit Judge Don Willett wrote in the Fifth Circuit's decision. The Trump administration had rescinded the rule, but there was concern that the Biden administration would consider enforcing the rule again. "We have repeatedly held that plaintiffs have standing in the face of similar prosecutorial indecision." 

Joseph Davis, who worked with the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty as counsel for the Christian medical groups, said, “This ruling is a major victory for conscience rights and compassionate medical care in America. Doctors cannot do their jobs and comply with the Hippocratic Oath if the government requires them to perform harmful, irreversible procedures against their conscience and medical expertise.”