Eight years ago Guadalupe Benitez, after nearly a year of fertility treatments was denied artificial insemination. The doctor allegedly cited religious reservations as the causation. Exacerbating the situation was the fact that this was the only clinic that was covered by her insurance company. Benitez has since filed a sexual-orientation discrimination suit against the staff of the private North Coast Women’s Care Medical Group.
Carlo Coppo the doctors lawyer was quoted as saying in CourtTV news that, “his clients were committed to fair treatment of Benitez — from fertilization to pregnancy and birth — but that aiding the actual act of conception compromised their religious views.”
“[Brody] believes that participating in the [fertilization procedure], she is acting as the male,” Coppo said. “It is an elective, invasive procedure, and to be there for the moment of conception, she religiously can’t participate.”
This is clearly a case of bigotry based in sexual orientation. If the doctor performs this elective procedure on heterosexual women, she is “acting as the male” in those circumstances as well. In her role as gatekeeper the doctor is reinforcing the normativity of heterosexuality, while casting homosexuality as deviant. At the same time she is acting as an agent of control in terms of female bodies. The ability to decide whether or not to conceive, and bear a child is essential to realization of womens agency and autonomy.
According to CourtTV News, Benitez’s attorney, Jennifer Pizer, said “the appeals court ruling was troubling because it opened the door to all kinds of discrimination.”
“It certainly is a social problem and a legal problem if someone enters a commercial business and can be told they will not receive the same services that another person can,” Pizer said. She is further quoted as saying in the Monterey County Hearald, “There is confusion among many health care providers who believe doctors have the freedom to pick and choose their patients. But doctors’ ethics may not be exercised in a discriminatory way.”
It is under this basis that Benitez won the first suit which was subsequently over turned by a midlevel appeals court. Peter Ferrara, general counsel for the Virginia-based American Civil Rights Union, said according to the Monterey County Hearald [that]”regardless of what the doctor’s reasons were for referring her to another fertility specialist, a ruling in Benitez’ favor would set a dangerous precedent.”
“If you have a genuine moral issue raised, as in this case, you have to recognize the rights of both parties,” said Ferrara, who filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting the doctors.
Along with the American Civil Rights Union, the Islamic Medical Association of North America, the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, the California Catholic Conference, the American Association of Pro Life Obstetricians & Gynecologists, Americans United for Life and the Seventh-Day Adventist Church State Council submitted briefs backing the North Coast practice.
The California Medical Association initially sided with the doctors as well, but reversed its position after coming under fire from gay rights groups.
It has been a few years since I actively read the bible, but I don’t remember a chapter, or verse that could be quoted to support the discrimination in this case, over and above the services that are already being performed on heterosexuals. Insemination is not a sexual act therefore they are not even acting counter to that pesky prohibition, Levitcus 18:22 “Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination.” Perhaps then the problem is that these evil lesbians are sinners. Could that be it? Well since that overly curious, mentally and physically autonomous Eve decided she simply had to have a vitamin C packed apple for a snack, guess what folks, WE’RE ALL SINNERS. To this day, her “daughters” are being punished for her exhibition of free will. You would think we women would just want to give up by now and say okay you win, we will stop trying to control our own bodies, and determine our own rate of fertility. In the 66 books, 1,189 chapters, one could surmise that having the shortest two chapters named after women would dictate to us our level of priority in Christianity. Why wouldn’t a thinking woman want to base the totality of her life, on a document dedicated to promoting her rights? We can always tell men that of the 31,101 versus, Esther 8: 9 has the distinction of being the longest verse, with 78 words to its credit. Now that is putting the needs of women front and center.
Marx referred to religion as the opiate of the masses. As an agent of socialization it acts as a mechanism of control over the population by disciplining and stigmatizing bodies. This form of discipline reinforces the patriarchal family which in turn legitimizes male hegemony throughout every aspect of society. Benitz is being specifically penalized for not submitting to a penis. If the purpose of womens bodies is procreation and male pleasure, to not allow penetration is to be considered a fouled personality. She is not worthy in the eyes of these doctors of motherhood because it was not “granted” by a male, nor would it be supported by a male figurehead in the continuation of patriarchal control. Allowing this decision to stand lends credence to the idea that womens lives are to be determined by others. Without having the right “to choose” on all aspects of the spectrum what we possess is the illusion of control. Fortunately Guadalupe was able to find another doctor to perform the procedure, and today she is the mother of a 6 year old boy and 2-year-old twin girls. The bible has been used to justify all manner of evil in this world. From war, slavery, incest, polygamy to rape, all have found a moral basis within the holy pages. Each person is entitled to their own beliefs but to subject another to them also violates that persons right to freedom of religion, and freedom from persecution. In a secular world ‘woman’ is already constituted as “other”, and to subject us as a group to biblical authority further reduces our autonomy. Now that this ruling has been passed, the bible will continue to be used to justify exclusion, exploitation, and the social imbalance of power, only now it will have the force of man made law to add to divine inspiration.