By now most of you reading this have probably already heard about the Michigan Doctor who refused to treat a Lesbian couples young child for medical service. Now lets make one thing clear, she refused to treat the child, but there were other adequate medical professionals in the building who could treat the child. This is important, as I do not want anyone to feel that I am trying to make a case that this child went without care. The child did get care, but the question of what morals of individuals who hold deep religion beliefs should be upheld verses what is a violation of personal rights and human flourishing of the species.
This story hits close to home because I live in Michigan; and as an atheist, I feel that the doctors religious beliefs trumps a persons lifestyle choice and their biological sexual orientation. It would follow that they would be able to discriminate against others who do not match their religious fundamentals, which is a slippery slope that could restrict treatment to others or deny it all together.
The story starts with a couple coming in to see a doctor whom they had made an appointment with for their newborn child. When the couple reached the clinic not only was their child’s doctor not in the building, the doctor also had left them a message that she had prayed to god and came to the conclusion that she could not treat the child because the child’s parents sexual orientation. Later a letter published on the Detroit Free Press, which can be found here, states more in-depth reasons why and then apologizes to the couple.
My initial reaction was how is this legal? How can anyone discriminate against sexual orientation let alone a child that does not have the capacity to understand sexual orientation? To me this seemed like the first problem and could easily be remedied through a lawsuit. To my surprise, I found that there are no actual anti-discrimination laws on this specific problem. So what we see here is that in the market we have today the free market principal does not protect against discrimination. Why are there so few laws that project peoples rights over protecting peoples ideas? We are seeing protections of someone’s personal beliefs trumping the biological nature and personal decisions of a harmless couple and their child. We see religious ideas getting protection over what should be just general basic care of a child.
Now if we pull up the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics we see conflicting statements. But I feel that both make it clear that discrimination of sexual orientation is discouraged and should not happen. Both of them state that the discrimination based on sexual orientation is now appropriate. While I will grant that in the AMA article it does have a clause that says, “(c) A specific treatment sought by an individual is incompatible with the physician’s personal, religious, or moral beliefs.” This does NOT mean that they can discriminate against the person for being a couple that violates their beliefs but only that the doctor does not treat if the couple is asking the doctor to preform a treatment that violates their beliefs. Well the Bible does not say that gay couples or gay individuals should not receive treatment. It states nothing of that and the Doctor has taken a personal interpretation on the issue based on her cognitive bias against gay couples. This even leaves out the fact that it was TREATING the CHILD who has not been able to create a biological sexual preference because it is not old enough to comprehend such concepts.
Another thing that I have seen overlooked was the website for the pediatric office. They have 3 doctors to treat patients so this does give the ability to have another serve them and the letter did say that it was hoping another doctor would help the couple. But if this doctor’s personal religious beliefs came into play, why would this not be upfront on their forms? Their website has forms that patients can fill out. Nowhere on those forms does it talk about sexual orientation. If this doctor had an issue with it, why is it not part of the forms to fill out or a disclaimer that a religious doctor works here and cannot serve these types of clients? It does not say that and is used as an excuse that I feel puts that doctor in a tough spot that shows a willingness to change who they give medical care to. This shows that her religion was not important until it made her feel uncomfortable.
This decision is a case of discrimination and a case that the state should consider correcting if the federal government does not. While I enjoy what the free market can establish when it comes to boycotting businesses and targeting their profitability, sometimes peoples rights should triumph over free market. Free market does not represent everyone equally and the downfall we see is that if people are bigoted enough the free market won’t be successful in ushering such violation the way of the dinosaurs. That is why we need some laws to help govern people who continue to perpetrate bias and discrimination.
So, you are probably saying this all makes sense and there should be laws enacted to deter and stop unfounded bias and discrimination. But here is the caveat, Michigan is set to try and pass a bill concerning the Freedom of Religion Restoration Act bill called Senate Bill 04. The bill was introduced in the Senate on January 20, and was referred to the Judiciary Committee. An almost identical bill, House Bill 5958, passed the House last December on a close 59-50 vote, but wasn’t taken up by the Senate before the end of year deadline. Essentially Michigan’s proposed bill will tie the state’s hands, nullifying any neutral, generally applicable law that conflicts with a person’s or corporation’s religious beliefs—unless that law is “[i]n furtherance of a compelling governmental interest” and is “[t]he least restrictive means” of furthering that interest. This is an extremely high bar for a law to meet, especially as religious groups increasingly use the cry of “religious persecution” to further their political agendas.
We should be concerned if this passes because it would further solidify the decision this doctor made. It would provide a loophole for the doctor that would allow for them to bypass any AMA understanding unless we get anti-discrimination laws put on the books. We should not stand here and allow this to continue. We must stand up and speak out now. We have an obligation to not allow for this discrimination to continue to happen nor to widen the gap between human rights and religious rights.
Religious rights are helping to create a straw man that gives them a false authority upon which to push their agenda. People are using religion as a way to hide their bigotry behind a mask of persecution. We need to help people see that no person’s religious beliefs should be held over persons right to medical care. How can we deny a child health care based on someone else’s sexual orientation while claiming that our personal beliefs are more important then someone else’s?
So where does that leave us now. I believe if we continue to speak out against individuals who promote discrimination. Write letters to the office. Show them that their forms on their website do not ask for sexual orientation. Explain what bigoted discrimination would look like in reverse. Most importantly we need to start writing our congresspersons, our senators, and all legislation in-between because this is not the start of religious masked discrimination but the continuation of it. Below is some links to for Michigan that you can start sharing your voice not just for others freedom but for everyone’s freedom.