Friday, August 22, 2008


A California Supreme Court decision upholding the rights of a lesbian to be artificially inseminated despite the religious objections of her physician violates the physician's rights of religious freedom and freedom of speech, according to officials of the California Catholic Conference.

"No one has the right to demand a nonemergency medical procedure from someone who finds that procedure morally unacceptable -- or religiously objectionable," said Auxiliary Bishop Thomas J. Curry of Los Angeles following the court's Aug. 18 ruling in North Coast Women's Care Medical Group v. Guadalupe T. Benitez.

"This case did not involve a life-and-death situation but only a possible inconvenience -- one which required the patient to 'walk across the office,'" added Bishop Curry, who chairs the conference's Religious Liberty Committee.

James F. Sweeney, legal counsel for the California Catholic Conference, agreed.

"To even suggest that a physician's religious and moral conscience must yield to the directives of a patient regarding a nonemergency procedure is so clearly contrary to traditional notions of individual liberty and religious freedom that there should have been no question that the court would defer to the constitutional rights of the involved doctors," he said.

In the case, Benitez and her partner, Joanne Clark, met with Dr. Christine Brody at North Coast Women's Care Medical Group in August 1999 in Vista, Calif., to discuss Benitez's desire to become pregnant. Brody told Benitez her religious beliefs would preclude her from performing a procedure called intrauterine insemination, but others in her medical practice could perform it.

Brody said her objections were based on the fact that Benitez was unmarried; Benitez and Clark contend that it was because they were lesbians.

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