Friday, May 30, 2008

No semen for you!

I’ve been following the news out of the Supreme Court of (The Peoples Republic of) California, regarding the Oceanside woman suing a fertility clinic for their refusal to provide artificial insemination on the basis of religious beliefs. The article, courtesy of the San Diego Union Tribune, is here.

The case has been won by the woman locally, overturned by appeal in favor of the docs, and has hit the CA Supreme court. The ruling is pending, but sources believe it will be found in the favor of the woman.

Interesting. I was discussing a similar case regarding a photography business in New Mexico that was found to be discriminatory in its business practices. Marshall Art's blog was discussing this article in the American Thinker.

My comments then as to that case now appear quite relevant and I have rephrased them as such in the next several paragraphs:

Per the Federal Civil Rights Act, legally, unless there is a legitimate business reason for such discrimination, then they're out of luck.

Many states have additional legislation more stringent than the FCRA.

This is up for interpretation:

In California, a funeral home was sued by a family trying to keep out "punk rockers" from a service. The funeral home allowed their admission, thinking that under the Unruh Civil Rights Act of California, they could be sued if they didn't.

It is really discrimination--by the fact of refusing service--and in the definition as noted in the law. I am viewing the term "discrimination" as a legal term, not an ethical/moral one; which is logical, as we are discussing the interpretation of a specific law. One is better off asking if the law is moral or right, to address that component. On that, it is difficult, as I think there are specific rights of individuals to conduct business within a specific code of conduct.

The problem exists, in such code, as to where one draws limits. As a pragmatist, I do believe that society has the right to clarify, by law, the specific definitions as to how businesses have to act in providing service.

The question is thus in degree: Should a private business be allowed to discriminate (by refusing business) against a specific group of people purely on the basis of their sexual orientation? The law currently says no for each and every business.

Had the owners of this practice argued that this decision falls outside of a noted code of conduct, and made efforts to refer this couple to a willing provider of services, they probably could have made a viable argument of this being a business decision -as it could have caused them to lose other customers, etc. (It also probably wouldn't have become a court case). The bottom line is: Refusal of service needs to be defined in terms of a business or medical decision, lest it be open for such claims.


A few additional points and questions:

1. Why was there no suit against the insurance company for not facilitating any other willing provider? There are many instances where physicians may have standards which do not allow comfortable treatment by the physician. An example--treatment of multiple family members by one Psychiatrist is often contrary to professional standards. Shouldn't insurance companies be required to work with clients in these cases?

2. Does the fact that this is a voluntary medical procedure make any difference? Few would argue regarding emergency care, but should a physician have the right to refuse to treat under conscientious objection? Michigan is debating that issue currently. See here.

3. Does this standard apply for other religious groups? There is significant debate in the UK regarding docs of Islamic faith refusing to treat drug or alcohol issues, sexually transmitted diseases, or opposite genders. I am waiting for the day that a Jehovah’s Witness becomes an MD and refuses to treat anyone.

4. These are not the brightest docs to scribble on a pad. There are so many ways around this religious refusal of treatment that I cannot help but wonder if this is not merely a couple attempting to push a political agenda. C’mon! If I’m reading correctly, you agreed to treatment of mediations for this patient, but drew the line at artificial insemination. Huh?! That’s like giving band-aids but refusing stitches.

1 comment:

Geoffrey Kruse-Safford said...

In regards to the case in question, I am a bit confused. Most of those folks whose religious beliefs stop at artificially inseminating a lesbian would probably see AI as unnatural and against their religious beliefs as well. I find the argument herein disingenuous at best.

Like laws that supposedly protect the "religious freedoms" of pharmacists who refuse to prescribe emergency contraception, I wonder at people who enter a profession that might conflict with their professed beliefs, or stay in a profession that conflicts with newly-acquired beliefs. I guess I'm confused by this particular case because the discrimination is so obvious, so blatant, and the position taken by the defendants so obviously confused.

Semen Nazis indeed.