Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Oral Argument Set in California Health Care Conscience Case

The California Supreme Court has scheduled oral argument for May 28, 2008, in North Coast Women's Care Medical Medical Group v. Superior Court, a potentially important case pitting the conscience rights of a health care provider against a sexual orientation non-discrimination rule.

Guadalupe Benitez was a patient of Dr. Christine Brody, an OB-GYN at North Coast Women's Care Medical Group. Brody provided a number of fertility-related services to Benitez, but declined to provide a particular procedure called intrauterine insemination. Brody had a moral objection to providing that service to an unmarried woman. Benitez intended to raise the child with her homosexual partner. Benitez quickly located another doctor willing to perform the procedure.

Benitez nonetheless sued Brody and her practice. She claimed that they violated California's Unruh Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of "sexual orientation" (among other things) in business establishments. Brody asserted religious freedom defenses, which the lower courts rejected. The California Supreme Court agreed to take the case.

The case implicates two of the CLS Center's current emphases: the application of nondiscrimination rules to religious individuals and religious institutions, and the conscience rights of health care providers. The Center filed a friend of the court brief supporting Dr. Brody.