A federal judge in Texas on Saturday
blocked enforcement of an Affordable Care Act (ACA) rule that
prohibits discrimination against transgender people and women who
have had abortions.
U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor sided
with plaintiffs – a group of states led by Texas and a handful of
religiously affiliated non-profit medical groups – challenging the
ACA's sex nondiscrimination requirement.
The Health and Human Services (HHS)
regulation was scheduled to go into effect on Sunday, January 1. It
“forbids discrimination on the basis of 'gender identity' and
'termination of pregnancy'” under Obamacare, wrote O'Connor in his
The rule, O'Connor wrote, violates the
Administrative Procedure Act “by contradicting existing law and
exceeding statutory authority” and likely violates the Religious
Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA).
“Plaintiffs claim the Rule's
interpretation of sex discrimination pressures doctors to deliver
healthcare in a manner that violates their religious freedom and
thwarts their independent medical judgment and will require
burdensome changes to their health insurance plans on January 1,
2017,” O'Connor wrote.
White House spokesperson Katie Hill
called the decision a “setback.”
“Today's decision is a setback,”
Hill told BuzzFeed
News, “but hopefully a temporary one, since all Americans –
regardless of their sex, gender identity or sexual orientation –
should have access to quality, affordable health care free from
O'Connor, an appointee of George W.
Bush, has a history of anti-LGBT rulings, including an injunction
against guidance issued by the Obama administration advising school
districts to allow transgender students to use the bathroom of their
choice and a ruling against married gay couples receiving benefits
under the Family Medical Leave Act which was eventually reversed.