Court says docs can't refuse IUI for lesbians

January 1, 2009

The California Supreme Court say doctors cannot refuse intrauterine insemination on single, lesbian women.

The California Supreme Court recently found that doctors' refusal to perform intrauterine insemination (IUI) on a single, lesbian woman, citing their religious beliefs, violated California's Unruh Civil Rights Act, according to American Medical News (10/13/08). The act prohibits any business, including medical groups, from discriminating on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, ancestry, national origins, disability, medical condition, or sexual orientation. The plaintiff sued North Coast Women's Care Medical Group and its two physicians, who refused to perform the IUI, charging that the refusal constituted discrimination based on her sexual orientation. The doctors claimed that their actions were based on the plaintiff's marital status, not her sexual orientation, and were protected under the rights of free speech and freedom of religion in the federal and state constitutions. The judges concluded that these rights do not exempt a medical clinic's physicians from complying with the prohibition against discrimination based on a person's sexual orientation in the state's civil rights act.

In their unanimous ruling, the judges said that to avoid any conflict between their religious beliefs and the antidiscrimination provisions of the state's civil rights act, "defendant physicians can simply refuse to perform the IUI medical procedure at issue here for any patient of North Coast, the physicians' employer." Another alternative, the court said, would be to ensure "that every patient requiring IUI receives full and equal access to that medical procedure through a North Coast physician lacking defendants' religious objections."