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Constitutional Rights and the Public’s Health

Religious Sisters of Mercy v. Becerra


Religious Sisters of Mercy v. Becerra (U.S. Court of Appeals, 8th Cir., Dec. 9, 2022): Plaintiffs, entities associated with the Catholic Church, challenged the Biden administration’s interpretations of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) section 1557, which prohibits discrimination in health care on the basis of sex. The Department of Health and Human Services and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission interpreted the provisions as including discrimination based on gender identity, requiring coverage for gender-affirming services. Plaintiffs argued this interpretation violated their First Amendment rights to religious freedom and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA). The district court agreed, permanently blocking the federal government from enforcing its interpretation on plaintiffs. The Eighth Circuit affirmed, finding that a likely RFRA violation constitutes irreparable harm and that Section 1557 required plaintiffs to choose between “defying federal law” and “violating their religious beliefs.” Read the full decision here.

View all cases in the Judicial Trends in Public Health – February 15, 2023 

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