Court Victory for Medical Conscience Because of RFRA | National Review

Court Victory for Medical Conscience Because of RFRA | National Review


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The secular Left wants to coerce doctors into performing abortions and transgender-transition interventions — even when doing so violates the doctors’ own religious beliefs. Toward that end, HHS passed a rule under Obamacare that punished refusal to perform abortions and transgender-transition interventions with fines and other penalties for “discrimination.”

The Trump administration reversed that coercive approach, but Biden’s HHS is again on the hunt for Christian and Hippocratic Oath-believing doctors, seeking to obliterate “medical conscience.” Now, a federal judge has granted a permanent injunction under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) protecting Christian doctor plaintiffs from having that rule enforced. From Franciscan Alliance v Becerra (citations omitted):

Here, the RFRA violation, the success on the merits, is all but conceded. No party disputes that the current Section 1557 regulatory scheme threatens to burden Christian Plaintiffs’ religious exercise in the same way as the 2016 scheme: namely, by placing substantial pressure on Christian Plaintiffs, in the form of fines and civil liability, to perform and provide insurance coverage for gender-transition procedures and abortions.

Like before, the current scheme continues to fall short of the “more focused” RFRA inquiry. The government asserts no “harm [in] granting specific exemptions” to Christian Plaintiffs. Accordingly, for these reasons and those laid out in greater detail in the Court’s October 15, 2019, Order, the Court holds that Christian Plaintiffs have shown success on the merits for its RFRA claim because the current Section 1557 regulatory scheme substantially burdens Christian Plaintiffs’ religious exercise in clear violation of RFRA.

The Court ruled that the consequential infringement on religious beliefs constituted sufficient “irreparable harm” for the injunction to issue:

For irreparable injury, the mere “possibility” of injury is not enough. Plaintiffs must demonstrate that irreparable injury is likely in the absence of an injunction.” In the context of RRFA, if a plaintiff demonstrates a violation, that “loss of First Amendment freedoms, for even minimal periods of time, unquestionably constitutes irreparable injury.”  Here, Christian Plaintiffs contend that violation of their statutory rights under RFRA is an irreparable harm. The Court agrees and concludes that enforcement of the 2021 Interpretation forces Christian Plaintiffs to face civil penalties or to perform gender-transition procedures and abortions contrary to their religious beliefs—a quintessential irreparable injury…Because the Court finds the permanent-injunction factors weigh in favor of granting an injunction in this instant, the Court concludes that Christian Plaintiffs are “entitled to an exemption” from HHS’s religion-burdening conduct.

A few thoughts:

  1. Why would the government, controlled by the secular Left, try to force doctors to perform abortions or transition procedures? And why would patients want an unwilling doctor to perform them? Primarily because the message communicated when doctors refuse participation is that such acts are sinful and/or morally wrong. That is anathema to the secular Left.
  2. Why won’t the secular Left just leave well enough alone and focus on ensuring access to willing doctors? Both to weaken the power of religious faith in society and to send the message that these procedures are not merely legal, but virtuous.
  3. This salutary court ruling was only possible because of the RFRA, which hangs on by a slender thread.
  4. That is why the Democrat Party is seeking to gut it, for example, in the “Equality Act.” If they succeed, medical-conscience rights will lie in ruins unless the Supreme Court reverses the Smith ruling that laws of general applicability that infringe on religious liberty pass constitutional muster unless targeted at a particular faith.
  5. The Left truly does want to drive pro-life and orthodox religious physicians, nurses, and pharmacists out of health care. And the Left doesn’t care if that results in a significant brain drain. Ideology is all that matters.
  6. The aggressors in this culture-war battle are leftwing bureaucrats — groups such as the ACLU and the mainstream media. These people cannot claim the mantle of civil libertarians any longer.

The RFRA only applies at the federal level. Some states have their own. But it is almost impossible to expand that list because every time a state seeks to protect religious liberty in this way, the woke corporations threaten boycotts and the state’s leaders beat a hasty retreat.

We face a crisis in religious liberty and the collapse of comity. But with the country quickly secularizing, millions of citizens could not care less and our elected leaders are often too cowardly to fight back.





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About the Author

Tony Beasley
Tony Beasley writes for the Local News, US and the World Section of ANH.