LGBT

It Was Perfectly Legal For This Doctor To Refuse To Treat A Same-Sex Couple’s Newborn

CREDIT: Detroit Free Press

Krista and Jami Contreras with their daughter, Bay Windsor.

Krista and Jami Contreras married in Vermont in 2012, and last October, welcomed their daughter Bay Windsor into the world. When they took Bay to see her pediatrician for the first time at six days old, they learned that the doctor they’d previously met decided she couldn’t care for the child of a same-sex couple.

Dr. Vesna Roi works at Eastlake Pediatrics in Roseville, Michigian, where the Contreras family now lives. Krista and Jami met with her in September and thought she was the perfect fit to care for their daughter. But according to one of her colleagues, Roi “prayed on it” and had a change of heart. In fact, Roi didn’t even come into the office on the day of their appointment so that she wouldn’t have to see them. Bay had an appointment with another doctor at the clinic, and then the family, who described the incident as “embarrassing” and “humiliating,” found another pediatric group.

On February 9, four months after the discrimination took place, the Contreras family finally received a hand-written letter from Roi. She apologized, but explained, “After much prayer following your prenatal, I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient-doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients.” She admitted that she should have spoken to them that day instead of leaving a colleague to break the news, but she provided no clear explanation for the treatment. “Please know that I believe that God gives us free choice,” Roi wrote, “and I would never judge anyone based on what they do with that free choice.”

The American Medical Association and American Academy of Pediatrics both condemn discrimination against patients based on race, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or other similar criteria.

Krista and Jami are not suing Roi, but mostly because they are doubtful they would have a legal case. Michigan has no law that explicitly protects LGBT people from discrimination, nor does any federal law afford such protection. When Michigan lawmakers considered adding LGBT protections last fall, they ended up instead focusing on a “religious freedom” bill that would have actually made it easier to discriminate. Though neither advanced before the end of the year, the state legislature is now considering new bills, like one that would allow adoption agencies to refuse service to same-sex couples while still receiving state funding. The imminent arrival of marriage equality when the Supreme Court rules in June could be greeted by even more attempts to allow discrimination like what the Contreras family experienced.