Just when you think it couldn’t get any worse for Americans who have bodies—from denying access to reproductive care for pregnant people and attacking trans folks at every turn—now a Texas judge is deciding which drugs people can get based on the religious views of the company that employs them.
The Dallas Morning News reports Wednesday that U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor ruled in favor of Braidwood Management Inc. as it challenged the Affordable Care Act (ACA) mandate for coverage of Gilead Science’s Truvada and Descovy, commonly known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) drugs. PrEP is prescribed to hundreds of thousands of Americans to prevent HIV/AIDS.
As first reported by Politico in July, a group of Texas residents, employers, and supporters of former President Donald Trump launched the suit, citing a violation of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The group argued that obliging businesses to pay for plans that cover STD screenings and HIV prevention drugs will “facilitate and encourage homosexual behavior, prostitution, sexual promiscuity, and intravenous drug use.”
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“All of these agency-issued preventive-care mandates are unlawful, and several of them—such as the mandates to cover contraception and PrEP drugs—violate the Religious Freedom Restoration Act as well,” the lawsuit reads.
Republican former solicitor general of Texas, Jonathan Mitchell, filed the suit. Mitchell is known for helping to create the abortion law that criminalizes anyone who helps a person get an abortion—including doctors, people who provide funding, and even unwitting parties such as Uber drivers.
O’Connor is an appointee of former President George W. Bush. In 2018, he ruled for the plaintiff in a suit that alleged the ACA was invalid; that decision was overturned.
In this latest case, he argued that the government failed to produce proof that the coverage of HIV medicines “overcame the plaintiffs’ religious objections,” the Dallas Morning News reports.
“The government defendants in the suit outline a generalized policy to combat the spread of HIV, but they provide no evidence connecting that policy to employers such as Braidwood,” O’Conner wrote. “Thus, defendants have not carried their burden to show that the PrEP mandate furthers a compelling governmental interest.”
In July, dozens of medical professionals and groups, including the American Medical Association, responded to the ridiculous lawsuit with a statement and filed an amicus brief in support of the ACA.
“With an adverse ruling, patients would lose access to vital preventive health care services, such as screening for breast cancer, colorectal cancer, cervical cancer, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, preeclampsia, and hearing, as well as well-child visits and access to immunizations critical to maintaining a healthy population,” their statement read, per The Dallas Morning News.
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