ACLU seeks to stay court order allowing healthcare providers to discriminate

Posted on 10 Jan 2017 at 11:32am

The American Civil Liberties Union filed a motion Monday, Jan. 9, in the Northern District Court of Texas, asking the court stay the nationwide court order preventing the federal government from enforcing an Affordable Care Act regulation that protects transgender people and women from discrimination in healthcare.

The ACLU also asked the court to issue a formal ruling on its request to intervene in the lawsuit.

A group of states, led by Texas and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, and a group of religiously-affiliated health care organizations who claim that Affordable Care Act regulations banning discrimination against transgender people and women could force healthcare providers to violate their personal religious beliefs. The plaintiffs in the case claim “they should be allowed to deny essential healthcare services and coverage to transgender people and women,” the ACLU says.

The ACLU originally moved to intervene on behalf of the ACLU of Texas and the River City Gender Alliance in September because the lawsuit “seeks to undermine critical anti-discrimination measures and to allow religion to be used to harm others, including by denying medical care,” according to an ACLU press release.

Federal Judge Reed O’Connor — the same judge that enjoined federal guidelines to school districts on interacting with transgender students — issued a preliminary injunction on Dec. 31 that halted enforcement of the ACA regulations just hours before it was to go into effect. The nationwide injunction restrains the government from enforcing the regulation to prevent public and private healthcare providers, including hospitals and healthcare centers, from discriminating against transgender people and women.

Such discrimination may include harassment, refusal to perform essential healthcare services like reproductive or gender-affirming care, and denials of insurance coverage for essential healthcare services, according to the ACLU.

ACLU Deputy Legal Director Louise Melling said, “Religious liberty does not mean the right to discriminate or harm others. No one should live in fear of being turned away at a hospital because of who they are, and we’re ready to fight this decision sanctioning discrimination. We won’t sit idly by while women and transgender people continue to see their rights come under assault.”

Kate Parrish, president of the Omaha, Nebraska-based River City Gender Alliance, said, “The judge’s court order direct attack on the transgender community’s right to function normally and safely in everyday life. Our access to medically necessary health care treatment is being restricted simply because of who we are.”

To see the ACLU’s motion, go here.

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