In a unanimous decision in Lambda Legal’s case on behalf of a lesbian denied fertility treatment, the California Supreme Court has ruled that doctors’ offices cannot use religious beliefs to deny patients treatment.
The California Supreme Court ruled that religion cannot be used as a legal excuse for a group of doctors to deny an Oceanside lesbian infertility treatment. In a unanimous decision, the justices ruled that Guadalupe “Lupita” Benitez is entitled to be treated like other patients with her same health care needs.
In 1999, Benitez was referred for infertility care to North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group, which had an exclusive contract with her insurance plan. After an 11-month process of preparatory treatments, including medication and unnecessary surgery, the doctors refused to perform donor insemination for her because she is a lesbian.
In 2004 the trial court agreed with Lambda Legal and Benitez that the medical group must comply with California’s antidiscrimination laws, rejecting the doctors’ claim that they were exempt from the state’s civil rights law based on their fundamentalist Christian belief. After the California Court of Appeal set aside that decision, Lambda Legal sought review from the California Supreme Court. The California Supreme Court ruled in favor of Benitez and made clear that California’s state law prohibiting discrimination must be followed.
“It’s wrong and shocking that some doctors felt their religious beliefs allowed them to ignore the law and discriminate,” says Benitez, who is now a mother of three children. “Anyone could be the next target if doctors are allowed to pick and choose their patients based on religious views about other groups of people.”
The case is Benitez v. North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group.