Press Release

Nuns and Catholic hospitals ask court to stop harmful transgender mandate Eighth Circuit hears plea to stop federal mandate forcing doctors to perform controversial gender-transition procedures

Media Contact

Ryan Colby 202-349-7219

WASHINGTON – Several Catholic hospitals, a Catholic university, and the Religious Sisters of Mercy—a group of Catholic nuns who run health clinics to care for the elderly and the poor—were in court today challenging a federal mandate that forces doctors to ignore science and their medical judgment and perform controversial gender-transition procedures, including on children, even if those procedures could cause permanent harm.

The mandate would force religious healthcare providers—on pain of financial and criminal liability—to act against their sincerely held religious beliefs. The government has not required its own military doctors to perform these procedures. It also has not required coverage of gender transition procedures in Medicare or Medicaid—even in adults—because HHS’s medical experts who oversee those programs do not believe research demonstrates that gender reassignment surgery improves health outcomes. Some studies, in fact, indicate that these procedures are harmful. But under the HHS rule developed by political appointees, doctors or hospitals citing the same evidence and using their best medical judgment could face multimillion-dollar penalties and lose their jobs.

“Both federal courts to consider this controversial mandate have struck it down as bad for patients, bad for doctors, and bad for religious liberty,” said Luke Goodrich, VP & senior counsel at Becket. “It is past time for this Administration to stop forcing doctors to go against conscience and sound medical judgment and to start respecting their Hippocratic Oath to ‘do no harm.’”

The religious doctors and hospitals in the case gladly serve all patients regardless of their sex or gender identity and provide top-notch care to transgender patients for everything from cancer to the common cold. However, research shows that certain gender-transition procedures can be deeply harmful to patients and that up to 94 percent of children with gender dysphoria (77 to 94 percent in one set of studies and 73 to 88 percent in another) will grow out of their dysphoria naturally and live healthy lives without the need for surgery or lifelong hormone regimens.

“The federal government has no business forcing doctors to perform controversial procedures that could be deeply harmful to patients,” said Goodrich. “We look forward to a commonsense ruling that is good for patients, good for doctors, and good for religious liberty.”

Becket is defending the Religious Sisters of Mercy, the University of Mary, Sacred Heart Mercy Health Care Center, and SMP Health System. In August 2016, Becket, joined by eight state governments, filed a parallel lawsuit in Texas on behalf of Franciscan Alliance, a religious hospital network sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, and the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, defending them from the same government mandate.

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For more information or to arrange an interview with a Becket attorney, contact Ryan Colby at or 202-349-7219. Interviews can be arranged in English, Chinese, French, German, Portuguese, Russian, and Spanish.