Dec 31 A federal judge in Texas on Saturday
issued a court order barring enforcement of an Obama
administration policy seeking to extend anti-discrimination
protections under the Affordable Care Act to transgender health
and abortion-related services.
The decision sides with Texas, seven other states and three
Christian-affiliated healthcare groups challenging a rule that,
according to the judge, defines sex bias to include
"discrimination on the basis of gender identity and termination
In granting an injunction one day before the new policy was
to take effect, U.S. District Judge Reed O'Connor held that it
violates the Administrative Procedure Act, a federal law
governing rule-making practices.
The judge also ruled that plaintiffs were likely to prevail
in court on their claim that the new policy infringes on the
rights of private healthcare providers under the Religious
Freedom Restoration Act.
As explained in O'Connor's 46-page opinion, the plaintiffs
argued that the new regulation would "require them to perform
and provide insurance coverage for gender transitions and
abortions, regardless of their contrary religious beliefs or
The same judge issued a similar court order in August
blocking a separate Obama administration policy that would have
required public schools, over the objections of 13 states, to
allow transgender students to use restrooms of their choice.
It was not immediately clear whether the Obama
administration, which has just 20 days left in office, would
seek to appeal the injunction.
White House spokeswoman Katie Hill decried the latest
"Today's decision is a setback, but hopefully a temporary
one, since all Americans - regardless of their sex or sexual
orientation - should have access to quality, affordable health
care free from discrimination," she said.
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, was
passed in 2010 with an anti-discrimination clause designed to
prevent insurers from charging customers more or denying
coverage based on age or sex.
The rule in dispute on Saturday was adopted by the U.S.
Health and Human Services (HHS) Department to implement those
provisions, including definitions for sex discrimination that
encompassed transgender and abortion services.
According to the court opinion, gender identity was defined
under that rule as "an individual's internal sense of gender,
which may be male, female, neither, or a combination of male and
female, and which may be different from an individual's sex
assigned at birth."
(Additional reporting by Jeff Mason in Honolulu; Editing by