Friday, November 25, 2005

Lesbian Sues After Docs Refuse Service

(Link) Although they were happy to provide her with costly treatments for 11 months, the invitro doctors refused to finish the process of making her a mom. Apparently all women treated at the North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group are not treated equally -- especially if they're lesbians.


LNewsEditor said...

JIC Post:
From Washington Blade

In one of the first cases of its kind, a California lesbian and mother of three is awaiting a decision from the California Court of Appeals in her suit against a physicians group for refusing to artificially inseminate her because she is a lesbian.

According to Lambda Legal, the North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group unnecessarily postponed artificial insemination for 11 months because Lupita Benitez is a lesbian.

When Benitez first began to go to the group about five years ago, her physician told her that it was against her religion to perform the procedure but that another staff member could do it. After several months of treatment and attempts at self-insemination at home, the physicians told her the staff would not artificially inseminate her because some staff members had a problem with her sexual orientation, according to Benitez.

“I had nowhere to go,” she told the Blade. “I was left to hang out to dry.”

Benitez had to go out of her health insurance network to a physician 40 miles away. While the North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group put Benitez on fertility treatments for almost a year without inseminating her in the office, her new physician performed the procedure after just one month.

Benitez and Lambda Legal sued the medical group, citing California’s prohibition on sexual orientation discrimination in business settings. A decision is expected from the California Court of Appeals by Jan. 10, according to Benitez’s attorney, Jennifer Pizer.

A state court tossed out Benitez’s case in 2002 but an appeals court reversed the lower court’s decision. The next time around, the trial court sided with Benitez and the physicians appealed to the Court of Appeals.

The doctors claim they refused to treat Benitez because she was unmarried. Benitez cannot legally marry her partner of more than 11 years under current California law. But Benitez said that’s not what the physicians claimed five years ago.

“They clearly told me it was because I was a homosexual,” she said.

Religious freedom claimed

Only 18 states have laws barring discrimination based on sexual orientation in health services, according to Lambda Legal. The federal government does not prohibit any form of discrimination based on sexual orientation.

“We know that many women face this problem,” Pizer said.

The physicians, represented by the Alliance Defense Fund, are framing the case as an issue of religious freedom and conscience, protected by the First Amendment.

“The courts most certainly have a constitutional duty to respect the religious convictions of these doctors,” ADF attorney Robert Tyler said in a statement released by the group in February. “The right to religious freedom is one of the most vital rights Americans have under the Constitution.”

Representatives of the Alliance Defense Fund were not available for comment.

Pizer, Benitez’s lawyer, claims the case is not about religious freedom but about discrimination. A person’s religious convictions do not exempt them from obeying any law, including non-discrimination statutes, Pizer said.

Conservative religious organizations insist that, in certain cases, doctors have a right to refuse care based on their views of sexual orientation.

“The absence of fertility is not a life-threatening situation,” said Carrie Gordon Earll, a spokesperson with the conservative, religious group Focus on the Family. “In non-life threatening situations, we do not support mandating any type of care if the healthcare professional’s conscience is violated by it.”

“It’s not an issue of the patient,” said Earll. “It’s an issue of the type of act being requested by the medical professional. You’re trying to make this about the victimization of the patient. There are plenty of places people can get fertility treatment or whatever else they want.”

badphairy said...

The myth of "liberal California" takes yet another blow. At least it isn't....just about any other state, heh.