Same-Sex Couple Blames Discrimination After Pediatrician Allegedly Refuses to See Their Newborn

“It was embarrassing, it was humiliating,” Michigan spouse says.

ByABC News
February 19, 2015, 4:11 PM

— -- A married, same-sex couple in Michigan say they felt discriminated against after a pediatrician refused to see their newborn daughter, according to their attorney.

Jami and Krista Contreras of Oak Park, Michigan, welcomed their daughter, Bay, four months ago. Six days after Bay was born, the couple took the infant to a pediatrician, Dr. Vesna Roi, they had chosen after an earlier prenatal visit with the doctor, the couple’s attorney, Dana Nessel, told ABC News.

But after they arrived in the waiting room at Eastlake Pediatrics in Roseville, Michigan, Roi’s colleague came out to meet the family and told them that after “praying on it,” Roi had decided she couldn’t care for Bay, Nessel said.

“[Roi’s colleague] said ‘I’ll be your doctor, I'll be seeing you today because Dr. Roi decided this morning that she prayed on it and she won't be able to care for Bay,’” Jami Contreras told WJBK-TV in Detroit. “[Her colleague] told us she [Roi] didn't even come to the office that morning because she didn't want to see us."

Eastlake Pediatrics didn’t immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Nessel said the couple had met with Roi after a long search for a pediatrician who worked in holistic medicine.

The couple immediately found a pediatrician elsewhere, but were still upset by their interaction. Nessel said they posted about their experience on Facebook and that they felt discriminated against because of their sexual orientation. The couple started to get responses from family and friends.

PHOTO: Jami and Krista Contreras say their pediatrician refused to see their newborn because they are a lesbian couple.
Jami and Krista Contreras say their pediatrician refused to see their newborn because they are a lesbian couple.

“It was embarrassing, it was humiliating and here we are, new parents trying to protect her,” Jami Contreras told WJBK-TV. “We know this happens in the world and we're completely prepared for this to happen other places. But not at our six-day-old's wellness appointment."

The couple decided to take their story public recently to show that discrimination among LGBTQ people that they say is still occurring, according to Nessel. She also said the couple wanted to draw attention to other potential instances of discrimination, including a pending state law called the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which could, in Nessel’s opinion, allow for people to discriminate based on their moral or religious beliefs.

Calls to Roi’s office and home were not immediately returned.

There are no laws in Michigan that protect lesbian, transgender, gay, bisexual or queer people from discrimination.

After Contreras posted about Roi’s alleged dropping them as patients, the pediatrician apparently sent the couple a letter apologizing for not meeting them in person, but not changing her position.

The doctor wrote she “would not be able to develop the personal patient doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients,” according to a copy of the letter Nessel sent to ABC News on behalf of the couple.

Roi also wrote that she didn’t talk to them in person because she felt her presence “would take away much of the excitement” for the new parents. She also wrote in the letter she did not have their number to call them before they arrived for their first appointment with Bay.

Roi didn’t specifically write that she refused to treat Bay because of the couple’s sexual orientation, but both spouses and their lawyer said they believe Roi’s letter leaves no doubt about her motivation.

“After much prayer following your prenatal, I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients,” Roi wrote in the letter.

Later she added, ”Please know that I believe that God gives us free choice and I would never judge anyone based on what they do with that free choice.”

The couple has no plans to file a lawsuit or medical complaint, according to Nessel.

Medical ethics experts say Roi’s actions may have been legal, but are ethically complicated.

According to the American Medical Association, doctors should not "refuse care based on race, gender or sexual orientation," but they can refuse specific treatments if they are incompatible with "personal, religious or moral beliefs."

Dr. Margaret Moon, associate professor of pediatrics and a faculty member at the Johns Hopkins Berman Institute of Bioethics, said it’s acceptable that Roi felt she could not establish a patient, doctor relationship with the family, but said the doctor could have been upfront earlier.

“The family experienced distress and a sense of discrimination. The family experienced a harm,” Moon said. “The pediatrician could have handled this much differently.”