USA Today is reporting that California’s high court on Monday barred doctors from withholding ethically questionable medical procedures to gays and lesbians based on religious beliefs, ruling that state law prohibiting sexual orientation discrimination extends to the medical profession. The ruling was unanimous, a contrast to the state Supreme Court’s 4-3 schism in May legalizing gay marriage.
The Family Research Council concluded, “The religious liberty rights of California citizens crumbled on Monday under the latest legal decision in favor of homosexual rights.”
The California Supreme Court ruled against two Christian doctors who refused to artificially inseminate a lesbian because of their religious beliefs. The doctors had referred the lesbian woman to another specialist, but the woman sued alleging sexual orientation discrimination.
The court found that the physicians were in violation of the California Unruh Civil Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on a person’s sexual orientation.
Moreover, the court found that the U.S. Constitution and its First Amendment guarantee of religious freedom did not protect the physicians, stating, “[A] religious objector has no federal constitutional right to an exemption from a neutral and valid law of general applicability on the ground that compliance with that law is contrary to the objector’s religious beliefs.”
First of all, the ruling will have a chilling effect for all people of faith throughout California (and, in other states if this ruling metastases).
For example, Christians working in the wedding industry will be forced to service homosexual “weddings,” attorneys will be forced to handle homosexual adoptions and same-sex divorces, and bed and breakfast owners and others businesses will be forced to surrender their religious convictions.
Secondly, this ruling will have a chilling effect for all physicians of faith.
The Christian Medical Association (CMA) the nation’s largest association of faith-based physicians, assailed the decision.
My dear friend, CMA CEO Dr. David Stevens said, “This case was never about discrimination against patients on the basis of sexual choices; it was about discrimination against healthcare professionals on the basis of their sincerely held ethical standards. The physicians in this case had determined to only provide in-vitro fertilization to married patients. That’s hardly a novel or extreme ethical position.
“Physicians of course must treat all patients with compassion and respect, regardless of the belief systems or sexual norms of the patients. But tolerance is a two-way street: we must also respect the right of healthcare professionals to make decisions based on ethical standards.
Dr. Stevens explained, “This court decision, like so many others in which the courts have waded into areas exceeding their proper reach, violates long-established principles of medical ethics. Even the American Medical Association officially affirms that ‘neither physician, hospital, nor hospital personnel shall be required to perform any act violative of personally held moral principles.’
“The overreaching court decision also conflicts with federal laws protecting right of conscience and with the First Amendment rights of healthcare professionals to exercise their conscientiously held moral beliefs. This decision reaches beyond the medical profession. Taking away the First Amendment rights of healthcare professionals puts at risk the rights of every working American.
Dr. Stevens also noted, “When faced with the decision to choose between conscience and providing a medical service, physicians of conscience are most likely to stop providing this service rather than violate their conscience. If the courts are going to decree that only a certain type of physician may practice in California, the net result is that patients will have decreased access to physicians.”
The case drew numerous friends of the court briefs from a wide variety of religious organizations, medical groups, and gay civil rights organizations.
The American Civil Rights Union supported the Christian doctors, siding with the Islamic Medical Association of North America, the Christian Medical & Dental Associations, and anti-abortion groups.
The California Medical Association reversed its early support of the Christian doctors after receiving a barrage of criticism from the gay rights community, joining health care provider Kaiser Foundation Health Plan to oppose the Christian doctors.
LifeNews.com says the ruling will have negative ramifications for pro-life physicians.
While media outlets and some activists groups made the case one about sexual orientation and opposition to gay rights, the real is conscience rights for doctors.
Ultimately, Dr. Stevens tells LifeNews.com he’s confident that other areas of law provide protection for pro-life medical personnel but worries the California Supreme Court’s decision is the beginning of the erosion of conscience rights that extend to all Americans.
“The overreaching court decision also conflicts with federal laws protecting right of conscience and with the First Amendment rights of healthcare professionals to exercise their conscientiously held moral beliefs,” he said.
“This decision reaches beyond the medical profession. Taking away the First Amendment rights of healthcare professionals puts at risk the rights of every working American,” he added.
Stevens echoed the concerns of other pro-life advocates who have said the removal of conscience rights will cause good medical personnel to leave the field.
“When faced with the decision to choose between conscience and providing a medical service, physicians of conscience are most likely to stop providing this service rather than violate their conscience,” he said.
“If the courts are going to decree that only a certain type of physician may practice in California, the net result is that patients will have decreased access to physicians,” he concluded.