A Different Legal Scenario

A recent controversy in California focused on the question of whether physicians opposed to same-sex relationships should be required to perform IVF for lesbian couples.  North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group, Inc. v. Superior Court, 44 Cal. 4th 1145, 1146 (Cal. 2008).  Guadalupe T. Benitez, a medical assistant from San Diego, sued doctors Christine Brody and Douglas Fenton of the North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group after Brody told her that she had “religious-based objections to treating homosexuals to help them conceive children by artificial insemination,” and Fenton refused to authorize a refill of her prescription for the fertility drug Clomid on the same grounds.  Benitez sued for a violation of California’s Unruh Civil Rights Act.  The California Supreme Court held, relying upon Employment Div. v. Smith, 494 U.S. 872 (1990), that there exists no First Amendment “exemption from a neutral and valid law of general applicability.”  Doctors are therefore not allowed to refuse to provide medical treatments due to their own religious beliefs, with two exceptions: The doctor can either cease to provide that service completely, or can refer the patient to another nonobjecting doctor within the same practice.  The Court further added that free exercise of religion does not give fertility doctors right to deny treatment to lesbians. 


Inside A Different Legal Scenario