Doctors Deny Lesbian Artificial Insemination

"You can't opt out of the law because of your religious beliefs," said Jennifer Pizer, senior attorney for Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund, a nonprofit that supports gay causes. "The laws have been in place for a long time. A business can't exclude you because you are gay."

"Doctors have considerable leeway in what procedures they provide," she told "But they can't pick and choose on the medically irrelevant characteristics of the patient."

Benitez, who is a medical assistant, and her partner, Joanne Clark, 49, have subsequently had three children by in-vitro fertilization at a San Diego fertility clinic — at their own cost, because they had to go "out-of-network" for their care.

As a result, the couple, who have been in a committed relationship for 18 years, said they were forced to pay for a repetition of all tests and hormone treatments. Today, they have a 6-year-old son and twin 2-year-old girls.

Their ordeal began in 1999, when Benitez was diagnosed with an ovarian condition that can cause infertility. She said North Coast "promised" one of the doctors would eventually perform artificial insemination, even though Brody specifically told them she would not do it on "lesbians."

"We had no where else to go," Clark said.

When the time came, the director of the clinic refused, "because the staff objected," said Clark, who stays at home with the children, while Benitez works as a medical assistant.

Benitez's lawyer, Pizer, compared their response to the civil rights era: "I don't treat black patients, but I will refer you to someone who will."

"It opened our eyes to discrimination," Clark said. "We knew how black people felt and didn't realize how deep it went and how on-guard it makes you."

According to North Coast lawyer Kenneth Pedroza, a "communication glitch" prevented the clinic's director, Dr. Doug Fenton, from performing the procedure. When it came time for insemination, Brody was away and had not left recent medical notes on the case for Fenton. The couple had initially requested using live sperm from a friend, rather than from a sperm bank, which was against clinic policy.

Just before going away, Brody had convinced the couple to use a sperm back, but that information had not been relayed to Fenton. The request for insemination was denied on those grounds, according to Pedroza.

Brody found a competent specialist for the couple at another clinic and even offered to pay the cost difference.

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