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Federal appeals court unanimously rules government cannot require Christian groups to perform abortions 

by | Aug 30, 2022

By Dave Andrusko

In an important victory, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court’s order “permanently enjoining” the Department of Health and Human Services from requiring Christian Medical and Dental Associations, Specialty Physicians of Illinois, and Catholic hospital system Franciscan Alliance Inc. to perform abortions in violation of their sincerely held religious beliefs.

“In Franciscan Alliance v Becerra, the court ruled that a Catholic healthcare network and a group of nearly 19,000 healthcare professionals cannot be required to carry out these procedures in violation of their deeply held beliefs and professional medical judgment,” according to the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty which represented the groups. 

“This ruling is a major victory for conscience rights and compassionate medical care in America,” said Joseph Davis, counsel at Becket. “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.” 

According to Becket,Six years ago, the federal government issued the mandate as part of the Affordable Care Act and tried to apply it to virtually every doctor nationwide. … A group of religious organizations and nine states quickly sued and received protection from federal courts in North Dakota and in Texas.”

The groups sued in a federal court in Wichita Falls, Texas, challenging an Obama-era HHS rule, which interpreted Section 1557 as requiring the groups to perform abortions if they receive federal funding or participate in ACA exchanges. 

“In 2019, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor vacated parts of the ruling but declined to enter an injunction,” Bradford Betz reported for Fox News. The following year the Trump administration rescinded the rule.  Betz added

The plaintiffs appealed to the 5th Circuit, asking for an injunction. The court remanded the case to O’Connor for further consideration. He then entered a broad injunction against enforcing 1557 against the Christian groups to require the abortion and gender reassignment services. 

HHS appealed the injunction, culminating in Friday’s ruling, in which the 5th Circuit sided with the lower court order. 

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