US District Judge Reed O’Connor, of the Northern District of Texas [official website], issued an injunction [opinion] on Saturday barring enforcement of anti-discrimination provisions concerning transgender health and abortion in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The injunction comes one day before the provisions would have come into force at the start of 2017 and is part of a larger lawsuit, Franciscan Alliance v. Burwell [ACLU backgrounder], which pits a coalition of states and religious organizations against the Department of Health and Human Services. The opinion states that the ACA anti-discrimination provision “violates [doctor’s] religious freedom and thwarts their independent medical judgement.” O’Connor further cited violations of the Administrative Procedure Act [text], which governs the way executive branch agencies may make law, as a reason for granting the injunction. Health and Human Services, and by extension the Obama Administration, may still appeal the decision, but the President’s ambitions might be limited as he has just 20 days left in office.
The decision, which is a political victory for conservatives, is part of a larger judicial push from conservatives across the country. In November, the Becket Fund filed suit [JURIST report] against the government in North Dakota over the same issue of transgender rights under the ACA. Transgender rights continue to be controversial, but the Supreme Court’s acceptance of a case [JURIST report] concerning transgender student’s rights in Virginia school bathrooms may help clarify the government’s position on the issue when a decision in rendered this summer.