Appellate Court Rules Lesbian Has Right To Sue Doctor Who Refused To Provide Artificial Insemination
A state appellate court on Tuesday ruled that a lesbian who was denied artificial insemination by her doctor, who said it was "against her Christian beliefs to help a homosexual become pregnant," has the right to sue, the Los Angeles Times reports (Los Angeles Times, 3/5). Guadalupe Benitez, who wanted to start a family with her partner, filed a civil rights lawsuit against her physician, Dr. Christine Brody, and the North Coast Women's Care Medical Group after Brody refused to perform the procedure. Although Brody referred Benitez to another doctor for the procedure, that physician also eventually denied Benitez artificial insemination, causing her to seek assistance from a doctor outside of her health plan's network, which cost "thousands of dollars in extra fees." In the suit, Benitez alleges that Brody violated California's civil rights statutes, which bar businesses and physicians from discriminating against homosexuals, when she refused to perform the procedure. Brody said that she acted within the law because she refused to provide the procedure for religious reasons. Carlo Coppo, a lawyer representing Brody and the medical group, called Benitez's claim "baseless" (Hong, Los Angeles Times, 2/18). A trial court earlier dismissed the case, stating that the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, which regulates employee benefit plans, prohibits state civil rights claims against doctors "whenever the doctors' services are paid through an employer-provided health plan," the Associated Press reports (Associated Press, 3/4). However, the 4th District Court of Appeals said that doctors who deny treatment because of bias -- not because the patient is ineligible under the terms of the health plan -- can be sued under state civil rights laws, no matter how the patient's health care is funded, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. The ruling "means that lesbians and gay men who experience discrimination in health care will have the ability to fight back," attorney Jennifer Pizer of the Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund said (Egelko, San Francisco Chronicle, 3/5). Coppo said, "We feel comfortable when the case goes back for discovery and trial, the court will find there were clinical and religious issues in the decision" (Associated Press, 3/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.