Five states, a Catholic hospital network, and two medical associations have sued the Obama administration in federal court to stop a rule that would force doctors to act against their medical and ethical judgment.

President Obama's new rule is on the social issue du jour: transgenderism. It was promulgated in May, when it was billed as a simple non-discrimination measure. But it goes well beyond that. It radically redefines what "sex" means in federal and common law, and what humanity has understood it to mean since time immemorial.

Obama's rule requires doctors in certain specialties to perform sex-changes and gender transitioning on demand. They are not permitted to refuse treatment even if they judge on medical grounds that it would not be good for their patient. Ethical or religious objections to the procedure are not even considered.

Although the rule also obliges private insurers to pay for sex changes, federal programs are exempt. Why? Because the standing opinion of Medicare's medical experts is that "there is not enough evidence to determine whether gender reassignment surgery improves health outcomes."

Gender dysphoria, which is the medical term for the condition of those who identify as a member of the opposite sex, is a psychological and emotional affliction. A large portion of the medical professional still regards it as an ailment in which it is the mind, not the body, of that patient that needs to be fixed.

The most extraordinary feature of the new rule is that doctors will be obliged to perform sex change operations on children. If they refuse, they are liable to lawsuits, lost federal funding and investigation by the Office of Civil Rights in the Department of Health and Human Services. Nearly every doctor who participates in any sort of federal program (has Medicare patients, for example) could suffer.

Gender reassignment of children is widely, and not without justification, regarded as a grotesque idea and an appalling abuse of the young people in question. It is a practice that respectable research data does not support. Children, especially in adolescence, commonly experience sexual confusion of one kind or another, and they usually grow out of it. Cutting and reconstructing them because of what might be a passing phase is repellent and unacceptable. That the federal government should make it mandatory boggles the mind.

Children lack both the legal ability to consent to such procedures on their own and the life experience to judge whether it's good for them. (As parents of almost any teenager might guess, the portion of the human brain that develops last is the one in which the faculty of judgment resides. People are incapable of mature judgment until they reach about the age of 23.)

The consensus of scientific research suggests that most children with gender dysphoria simply outgrow it, with many growing up to be gay. But no child can outgrow a gender reassignment procedure that is irresponsibly administered in the name of political correctness by grown-ups who should have known better.

The administration of sex hormones to children can have grave consequences that go far beyond the trauma of a sex-change. Hormones also affect many other aspects of children's development, such as their bone density, cancer risk and heart health in adulthood.

To treat gender reassignments as an essential healthcare procedure is highly debatable. That it should become a federal mandate under a law that was supposed to improve healthcare and reduce its cost is social engineering of the worst kind.

This is the result of government getting ahead of itself in backing what has become a war on the science of biological sex. The hope at this point is that with the courts blocking Obama's decree on de-gendered bathrooms, they will see reason on this point, too, and prevent the feds from interfering with the medical profession in this ghastly way.

But it may not end there. This rule, whether it stands in its current form or not, should serve as a warning for what courts might allow in the future if the wrong people get to appoint the judges.