Jen Jorczak

Too gay to be pregnant or erect

Filed By Jen Jorczak | August 15, 2007 8:55 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, Living, Living, Politics, Politics, Politics, The Movement, The Movement
Tags: California State Supreme Court, Christine Brody, Douglas Fenton, fundies, Guadalupe Benitez, Joanne Clark, LGBT rights, parenting, pregnancy, religion, reproductive rights, viagra

Laura Parker at USA Today (which I don't read often, which is why these articles took so long to find me) posted 2 stories 2 weeks ago about the intersection of LGBT rights and reproductive rights, which of course, we've discussed here before.

The latest news concerns the expansion of refusals to provide individuals in need with proper medical care: gay men being refused Viagra prescriptions, and lesbians being refused fertility treatments.

The reason: religion.

I know, you're shocked, aren't you?

But seriously, the deal is (in story A), a doctor in Washington state refused to write a Viagra prescription for a gay man, though he writes them all the time for (straight) married dudes.

Patrick Gillen, legal counsel for the Thomas More Law Center... says no doctors should be required to perform procedures that violate their religious faith, especially "if the patients can get the treatment elsewhere."

Thomas More Law Center calls itself "The Sword and Shield for People of Faith" (need I say more?), but Gillen makes an interesting point. I've never sought a Viagra prescription, but I imagine it wouldn't be too hard to find another provider, especially when Viagra's covered by most insurance plans, which is more than you can say for birth control. I don't mean to make light of what was probably a pretty traumatic experience for the patient ("sorry, I can only give you a boner if I can be sure you're going to use it to plow the right field, preferably in order to be fruitful and multiply"), but the idea of "getting treatment elsewhere" becomes much more problematic for those seeking fertility assistance.

In fact, that very problem is cited by the two lesbians (in story B) whose case will soon be heard before the California Supreme Court:

The dispute arose in 2000 after San Diego-area doctors Christine Brody and Douglas Fenton refused to artificially inseminate [Guadalupe] Benitez, a lesbian who lives with her partner, Joanne Clark, in Oceanside, north of San Diego.

By that time, Benitez had been a patient at the clinic for 11 months and been taking fertility drugs prescribed by Brody. The clinic was the only facility covered by Benitez' health insurance plan. "I was very distraught," Benitez says. "I was very confused. I couldn't even bear to think that possibly I was never going to be able to have children."

In 2001, Benitez sued the doctors, claiming that they violated California's anti-discrimination laws that protect gays and lesbians.

Again, imagine the patient's trauma: she's been working with these doctors for almost a year before they decided she was too gay to get pregnant. Even if the courts had immediately and decisively decided that the doctors couldn't refuse her treatment, would she still want to work with doctors who are not supportive of her? Would you?

While various California courts have wrestled with variations of religious freedom v. discrimination, Benitez and her partner did manage to find another fertility doctor and now have three children. The article does not say, however, how the couple paid for the treatment, or whether or not their insurance plan let them switch doctors after being refused at the first clinic.

But you don't have to be gay to be discriminated against:

Cheryl Bray, a real estate broker, says she was humiliated when her doctor refused to perform a routine physical to allow her to complete an adoption of a baby from Mexico. When the doctor discovered she was single, he says he told her his religious beliefs require that children have two parents... Bray, 44, eventually found another doctor who performed the exam, and she adopted a baby girl.

Honest, even a simple physical was too much? How far away are we really from A Handmaid's Tale?

Bottom line, folks: everyone should be allowed to express their unique, healthy sexuality; and everyone who wants to parent a child should be allowed to.

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Marti Abernathey | August 16, 2007 2:48 PM

you sure Senator Miller didn't have anything to do with this? ;)