Reason reigns in Texas
It might have skipped notice over a holiday weekend, but a federal judge in Texas on Saturday issued a court order barring enforcement of an Obama administration policy seeking to extend protections under Obamacare (ACA) to “transgender health and abortion-related services.”
The decision sides with Texas, seven other states and three Christian-affiliated healthcare groups challenging a rule that, according to U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, defines sex bias to include “discrimination on the basis of gender identity and termination of pregnancy.”
In granting an injunction one day before the new policy was to take effect, Judge O’Connor, a George W. Bush appointee, held that it violates the Administrative Procedure Act, a federal law governing rule-making practices.
As explained in O’Connor’s 46-page opinion,* the plaintiffs argued that the new regulation would “require them to perform and provide insurance coverage for gender transitions and abortions, regardless of their contrary religious beliefs or medical judgment.”
In his opinion, Judge O’Connor wrote the regulations would likely violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act and “places substantial pressure on Plaintiffs to perform and cover transition and abortion procedures.”
The rule in dispute on Saturday was put in place by the Obama administration’s U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Department Secretary Sylvia Burwell, whose intent was to implement those provisions.
According to the court opinion, gender identity was defined under that rule as “an individual’s internal sense of gender, which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and female, and which may be different from an individual’s sex assigned at birth.”
Judge O’Connor issued this court order on August 21, 2016 blocking a separate Obama administration policy that would have required public schools, over the objections of 13 states, to allow transgender students to use restrooms of their choice. Plaintiffs included Heber-Overgaard Unified School District in Arizona.
H/T * Opinion: Becket Fund for Religious Liberty