Chasanow ruled in favor of a summary judgment in the case, but damages have not yet been determined. Hammons’ legal representation included the American Civil Liberties Union.
“We’re thankful the court saw through a transparently discriminatory and harmful action by UMMS,” Joshua Block, senior staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union’s LGBTQ & HIV Project, said on Friday. “The government has no business operating a religious hospital, much less do they have the right to deny transgender patients care they routinely provide to cisgender patients.”
UMMS in 2012 bought St. Joseph Medical Center on the condition that it would continue to follow Catholic ethics as codified in the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services.
Chasanow sided with the plaintiff’s claims that the hysterectomy would not have been canceled if the procedure were scheduled for a diagnosis other than gender dysphoria. Hammons has previously said the surgery would help eliminate the production of estrogen and drastically improve mental health.
Chasanow’s ruling also included debate over whether the hospital declined the surgery simply because it was sterilizing or because Catholic ethics precludes all “gender-affirming” care.
The ruling specifically cited the National Catholic Bioethics Center’s interpretation of the U.S. bishops’ ethical directives for Catholic health care. In a guidance document, the center said gender transition affirmation is unethical because it does not “conform to the true good of the human person, who is a body-soul union unalterably created male or female.”
The judge commented: “This policy, and the reasoning behind it, implicates sex stereotyping in that it prohibits treatment that facilitates patients’ physical nonconformity to their sex assigned at birth.”
Meaney, however, defended the NCBC, which advises Catholic bishops and Catholic institutions on medical ethics.
“The National Catholic Bioethics Center stands by what we have always held to be Catholic teaching with regards to transgender interventions,” Meaney told CNA. A person’s biological sex, he said, “is determined, and good.”
Catholic and other groups challenged the Biden administration’s Department of Health and Human Services mandate of “gender-affirming” surgeries and have secured several legal injunctions, though Judge Chasanow said these did not apply in the case of St. Joseph’s Medical Center.
Meaney said there is a real worry that the Biden administration rules, if they take effect, could result in “the destruction of Catholic health care.” Forcing Catholic institutions to perform abortions or transgender interventions, which they cannot do in good conscience, would mean “they would have to shut down,” he said.
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Kevin J. Jones is a senior staff writer with Catholic News Agency. He was a recipient of a 2014 Catholic Relief Services' Egan Journalism Fellowship.