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Posted on Wed, Sep. 21, 2005
Group flips on whether religion lets doctors refuse to inseminate lesbians
SAN FRANCISCO - The California Medical Association, which came under fire from gay rights groups after it filed legal papers backing two San Diego doctors who refused to provide artificial insemination to a lesbian, has withdrawn the controversial brief.
CMA chief executive Jack Lewin said that while the professional group still thinks the doctors should be allowed to argue in court that they refused to treat Guadalupe Benitez on religious grounds, the brief was retracted because of a recent California Supreme Court ruling holding that businesses must treat same-sex couples the same as married couples under the state's domestic partnership law.
"CMA continues to believe that the defendant physicians deserve a right to due process and a jury trial," Lewin said in a statement released Tuesday. "However, it is clear that CMA's policy commitment to oppose any form of invidious discrimination had been so significantly confused and misrepresented, that it was in the best interest of CMA to withdraw the brief."
Benitez sued the North Coast Women's Care Medical Group for discrimination after alleging doctors Christine Brody and Douglas Fenton refused to inseminate her because of her sexual orientation. She turned to another doctor outside her health plan and eventually gave birth to a son.
The clinic's doctors have argued that they should not have to treat women like Benitez because inseminating an unmarried woman contradicts their religious convictions.
Oral arguments are scheduled before the state's Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Diego on Oct. 11. The California Medical Associated wants to file a new brief arguing that neither Guadalupe Benitez's sexual orientation nor her marital status was medically relevant to whether her doctors were obliged to treat her.
Gay rights groups that had criticized the CMA's earlier contention that doctors have the right to cite religious grounds in denying certain medical care to gays and lesbians, if that refusal was based on the patient's marital status, applauded the association's move.
"The CMA is affirming principles of nondiscrimination in health care that they have stood for a long time," said Joel Ginsberg, executive director of the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association in San Francisco. "We are pleased to see them clarify their position and come out strongly against discrimination based on one's sexual orientation, gender identity or marital status."
The CMA's new brief states that legal and ethical standards prohibit physicians from discriminating, but says they can refuse to perform certain procedures on religious grounds, if they refuse such treatment for all patients.
Information from: San Francisco Chronicle, http://www.sfgate.com/chronicle
California Medical Association pulls legal brief supporting gay bias - SF Chronicle