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BREAKING: Judge Strikes Down Obamacare Protections For Trans Patients

Judge Strikes Down Obamacare Protections For Trans Patients

The same judge issued a 2016 preliminary injunction against the health care rule.

For the second time, a federal judge in Texas has made it harder for transgender people to go to the doctor or to even receive basic care.

As The Hillwas the first to report, Judge Reed O'Connor of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas ruled Tuesday that protections for trans patients under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) conflict with the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), a 1993 law stating that the government cannot "substantially burden a person's exercise of religion."

Section 1557, the rule in question, prevented federally funded health centers from denying treatment to patients based on their gender identity.

In a 25-page ruling, O'Connor claimed the defendants in the case, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), "failed to address" concerns that the enforcement of Section 1557 would not compel medical professionals to violate their sincerely held religious beliefs.

Accordingly, O'Connor claimed the policy is unconstitutional and called for the trans-affirming protections to be nullified.

O'Connor previously halted enforcement of Section 1557 just days before the ACA guidelines were set to roll out. In a December 2016 preliminary injunction against the policy, the Bush-appointee agreed with plaintiffs -- which include the Franciscan Alliance hospital network -- that the regulations would "revise" the established legal definition of sex discrimination by including gender identity under its umbrella.

The Franciscan Alliance was joined in the lawsuit by Wisconsin, Kentucky, Nebraska, and Kansas.

Although the White House initially defended Section 1557, the department announced it would no longer do so after President Donald Trump was elected in January 2017. HHS has since removed all references to gender identity from Frequently Asked Questions page regarding Section 1557 and sought to scrap the guidelines altogether.

O'Connor's ruling is expected to be appealed.

A 2015 survey from the National Center for Transgender Equality found that a third of trans respondents had experienced some form of discrimination in health care settings, from being refused care to verbal harassment and even sexual assault over the past year. Almost a quarter had avoided going to the doctor in fear of mistreatment.

RELATED | Over 130,000 People Condemn Trump's Proposed Attacks on Trans Health

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