CMDA Court Cases: Good News and Bad News
December 5, 2019
by Jonathan Imbody
This month’s blog provides updates on two Christian Medical & Dental Associations federal lawsuits. The following case updates are information and help for healthcare professionals who have experienced discrimination on the basis of their faith and conscience.
Good News: Victory in transgender mandate case
Becket, one of the nation’s premier religious freedom law firms, has represented the interests of CMDA members in challenging a 2016 mandate issued by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) under the authority of the Affordable Care Act. Becket provides a synopsis of how the case has developed:
A federal mandate issued in 2016 required doctors to perform gender transition procedures on any patient, including a child, even if the doctor believed the procedure would be harmful. That rule was struck down in court after it was challenged by nine states, several religious organizations, and an association of over 19,000 healthcare professionals [CMDA]. In May 2019, HHS proposed bringing its regulations into compliance with those decisions and ensuring that the personal decision to undergo gender transition procedures is kept between patients and their doctors, free from government interference.
On May 24, 2019, HHS proposed a new rule that follows a court ruling, complies with accepted medical research and protects both the medical judgment of the doctor and the unique, individual needs of the patient.
Meanwhile, on October 15, 2019, a federal judge confirmed his earlier ruling that the government’s 2016 HHS mandate is unlawful, ensuring that doctors can continue practicing in their field of medicine without being forced to perform procedures that violate their faith.
Left unchallenged by our lawsuit, this unlawful and ideologically driven mandate would have imperiled the careers of many healthcare professionals, by denying the ability to follow medical judgment and conscience. This court victory now protects the religious freedom and medical judgment not only of CMDA members but also of healthcare professionals nationwide.
Bad News: First-round loss in conscience rule case
Becket also represents the interests of CMDA members in a lawsuit to defend the recent HHS conscience protection rule for healthcare professionals. Becket provides the following synopsis:
Regina Frost is an OB/Gyn and a member of the Christian Medical & Dental Associations. Religious healthcare professionals like Dr. Frost care for all patients and are consistently on the frontlines serving the most vulnerable members of our society, including underserved poor and migrant communities; victims of gang violence, sex trafficking, opioid addiction, and deadly epidemics and prisoners living with HIV. In May 2019, HHS released a new Conscience Rule enforcing existing laws that allow religious healthcare professionals to continue their important work without having to perform certain procedures which would be inconsistent with their beliefs. But several states, including the state of New York, are now suing to block this rule and force Dr. Frost and others to either violate their conscience or end their practice. Becket is defending medical conscience rights for religious healthcare professionals nationwide so that they can continue their ministry providing compassionate care across the globe.
On June 25, 2019 Becket moved to intervene on behalf of Dr. Frost and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations in federal court, arguing that no healthcare professional should be forced to choose between violating her conscience or providing compassionate medical care. On November 6, 2019, a federal court ruled against the Conscience Rule, threatening the ability of religious doctors like Dr. Frost to serve communities without being forced to perform procedures against their beliefs.
Religious freedom protects the rights of individuals to live out their faith in all facets of their lives—including in their professions. This lawsuit threatens the ability of religious healthcare professionals to provide quality, compassionate healthcare, forcing them to choose between their conscience and their practice.
What can you do if you have experienced discrimination?
While we await the government’s decision to appeal this case, CMDA members should know that while this loss represents a significant weakening of protections, existing federal conscience protection law remains in effect and HHS continues to receive complaints.
Filing a complaint with HHS is simple and straightforward. You simply relate your story of what happened—who, what, when, where—at www.freedom2care.org/regulations.
Our Freedom2Care website also provides you with links to religious freedom law firms that provide pro bono legal aid at www.freedom2care.org/legal-help.
Both of these cases are of great importance in establishing and maintaining the freedom of health care practitioners to do the very best for their patients. I am grateful for the critical work Jonathan Imbody is doing in an effort to protect our nation’s health care practitioners, as well as their patients. Doctors take an oath to do the best for our patients – they are not vending machines, to be ordered around by the whims of others, they have a sacred responsibility to follow their consciences in providing the most compassionate and effective care they can.