Doctors Who Deny IVF Are Not Choosing Life

| Fri Aug. 3, 2007 1:17 PM EDT

Doctors refusing to perform abortions. Standard. (The procedure isn't even taught in medical schools.) Doctors refusing to provide fetal tissue for stem cells, pharmacists refusing to fill prescriptions. All of these things happen based on peoples' belief that providing such services threatens unborn life. And as much as I don't agree with these decisions, I get it (sort of). If these people feel, really feel, that lives are threatened by their action, then following through is a difficult choice.

But how about when doctors refuse to perform, not abortions, not stem-cell procedures, but in vitro fertilization, which actually helps create life? The California Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case in which two doctors refused a woman IVF treatment because she's a lesbian. Which means that they felt that Guadalupe Benitez and her partner (whom Elizabeth Weil wrote about for Mother Jones last year) did not have the right to the life they hold so dear.

The case, which began in 2001 with Benitez claiming that the doctors violated California's anti-discrimination laws, is seen as one of the most controversial the Court has heard in years. The doctors were not refusing a service—they routinely performed IVF on other patients—but instead cited religious beliefs in this specific instance. The court could find that doctors will have to take an "all-or-nothing" approach, which would mean loss of lucrative IVF business if such doctors stick to their religious standards.

The doctors' defense all along has been that they didn't perform the procedure because Benitez is unmarried. (Benitez has said, under oath, that the doctors told her it was because of her sexual orientation.) Okay, so let's give them their defense for a sec. Do they then support gay marriage so that newborn life can be cherished? And how come they have religious objection to IVF for unmarried women, but are fine with assisting in the production of up to a dozen excess embryos per woman they treat? These embryos now number half a million nationwide; they're sitting frozen in storage and are most likely destined to be destroyed.

The Choose Life argument doesn't wash when the same moral high ground is used to deny it.