A federal judge in Texas on Tuesday invalidated protections for transgender health- and abortion-related services under a 2016 rule interpreting the Affordable Care Act, but left open the possibility of further challenges based on a civil rights law that is currently under Supreme Court review.
U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor of Wichita Falls, Texas, agreed with seven states and three Christian-affiliated healthcare institutions who argued that the 2016 rule went beyond the scope of the Affordable Care Act as passed by Congress and improperly denied the providers’ right to a religious exemption the ACA would otherwise provide.
O’Connor also found that the rule violated the Religious Freedom Restoration Act because it substantially burdened the healthcare providers’ religious rights. Even if the government had a compelling interest in doing so, he said, it had “failed to prove the Rule employs the least restrictive means” of accomplishing its goals.
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