Tuesday, August 19, 2008
CA: physicians cannot use religious beliefs in refusing fertility treatment to lesbian
In a case known as “North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group, Inc. et al” v. “San Diego Superior Court” (case S142892) with “real party at interest” Guadalupe T. Benitez, the California Supreme Court ruled on Aug. 18 that a physician (or medical service) may not deny medical services on the groups religious belief, even if providing service accidentally conflicts with religious beliefs, in contradiction to state laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or for any other illegal reason. The 18 page opinion was written by Justice Joyce L. Kennard.
The doctors had refused fertility treatment to her because, they said, she was unmarried and that to do so would violate their religious beliefs, which were protected by the First Amendment. The Court ruled that the physicians must either refuse the same service to all patients, or refer to a doctor who will provide the service. The doctors had apparently given her "do-it-yourself" instructions for home.
The same logic would apply to abortion, and obviously has ramifications for pharmacists who don’t want to fill prescriptions for contraceptives, “morning after pills”, or other similar medications for personal moral reasons.
The Los Angeles Times has a pdf copy of the opinion here.
The LA Times story by Maura Dolan appears here. There are plenty of comments. One visitor claims that "liberals are trying to have it both ways with the right of privacy."
I have faced ethical questions in work that I accepted of a different nature, as sometimes discussed on these blogs.