The California Supreme Court ruled this morning that doctors cannot discriminate against their patients based on their religious views about sexual orientation. The groundbreaking case was brought by lesbian Guadalupe Benitez, who was seeking insemination help from a fertility clinic in San Diego. The Christian doctors refused her treatment on the grounds that they did not believe in homosexuality. (The tooth fairy, Easter Bunny and Santa Claus were also denied services under the same 'non-belief' clause.)
This is a huge case in California (and beyond) for several reasons. First, the obvious, which is that health care access should be a right to all of our citizens. Read Pamela Merritt's awesome post this morning on RH Reality Check about provider ignorance and the effects it has on lesbian access to healthcare if you want the full story. The typical access barrier dykes face is often cluenesses more than overt discrimination, but that kind of oppression is all the more insidious. And many queer folks actively avoid health care because of it. Want proof? See our interview with trans-activist Ethan Suniewick.
Second, this case makes the connection between the queer community and the reproductive justice community--a connection that, unfortunately, has been tenuous at times. As our friends at Causes in Common know, LGBTQQI folks have a vested interest in reproductive justice--and our concerns around access to fertility treatment, adoption rights and abortion are magnified by oppression and discrimination.
Third, the findings of the Court are critical in light of what the DHHS is trying to do on a federal level in terms of access to contraception. As I blogged about a few weeks ago, the DHHS wants to 'relabel' certain kinds of contraception as abortion, so that health providers who object to them on religious or moral principles don't have to talk about, prescribe, or provide them to women who want them. DHHS is essentially saying that someone else's religious or moral beliefs should take precedence over your own right to choose how to best take care of your body, health and sexuality.
If our friends in reproductive justice aren't paying attention, they should be: the Benitez case establishes--in California, anyway--that individual access to care shouldn't be impeded on religious grounds. "This isn't just a win for me personally and for other lesbian women," said Guadalupe Benitez. "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."
I think that says it all.