You may have read read that the California State Supreme Court ruled that religious doctors cannot refuse to inseminate lesbian women artificially on religious grounds. The decision came down yesterday and has generated quite a bit of buzz.
I wrote about the consideration of the case two months ago. My criticism of a Washington Post story on the topic was that it failed to elaborate on the competing claims: the defendants’ lawyer argued that in terms of medical care, freedom of religion is invoked most clearly in the creation and termination of life, while the plaintiffs’ lawyer contended that the freedom of religious clause does not allow doctors to refuse treatment to certain classes of people.
Surely The Los Angeles Times, the state’s paper of record, would add to our understanding of this topic or, even better, adjudicated the justices’ claims. Alas, it did not. Reporter Maura Dolan gave readers this explanation:
The state high court said the doctors’ constitutional rights to freedom of religion did not trump the state antidiscrimination law because the state has a compelling interest in ensuring full and equal access to medical care.
That is an all to brief explanation. On what grounds did the justices accept the plaintiffs’ claims rather than those of the defendants’? Did the justices equate homosexuals with women, as a majority of them did in their gay-marriage ruling?
On this issue, readers need to be given more than a one-sentence assertion. They need an explanation of the rationale.
UPDATE: The Washington Post‘s story on the same topic was everything — well, almost everything — the LAT’s was not: It explained on what grounds the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiffs. Consider the passage below from reporter Ashley Surdin:
The court ruled that physicians’ constitutional right to the free exercise of religion does not exempt businesses that serve the public from following state law that prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
That holds true, Justice Joyce L. Kennard wrote in the 18-page decision, “even if compliance poses an incidental conflict with the defendants’ religious beliefs.”
If a doctor wants to refuse a service because of religious beliefs, the court found, he or she must refuse all patients, or provide a doctor who can provide the service to everyone.
That makes sense. If a doctor refuses to perform artificial insemination on religious grounds, he or she cannot single out lesbian women. This does not address the defendant’s chief claim in Surdin’s story from two months ago — religious freedom applies usually to termination and creation of life. But hey, it is an explanation.