Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-Sex Couple’s Baby

Krista and Jami Contreras were married in 2012 and welcomed a blessing in their life, their daughter, Bay, in October 2014. This same-sex couple knows first-hand about the occurrence of homophobia in the world. They are aware that there are people who are strongly against, and have hatred towards LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning) people. However, when the couple brought their 6-day-old daughter to their pediatrician for her first checkup, Krista and Jami were shocked to find out that “[…] Dr. Roi decided this morning that she prayed on it and she won’t be able to care for Bay” (MyFOXDetroit Staff, “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-sex Couple’s Baby”). Dr. Roi wrote a letter to the parents giving reason for her decision, stating that “After much prayer following your prenatal, I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient-doctor relationships that I normally do with my patients” (MyFOXDetroit Staff, “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-sex Couple’s Baby”). It could then be concluded that Dr. Roi was refusing to treat Bay, who has no sexual orientation of her own yet, simply because of her same-sex parents. After all, if Dr. Roi is worried solely about her patient-doctor relationship, then the sexual orientation of Bay’s mothers should not be a factor in the care Dr. Roi believes she can, or cannot, provide for Bay, right? Jami Contreras stated that “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.” (MyFOXDetroit Staff, “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-sex Couple’s Baby”). Ultimately, the Contreras’ were shocked that an individual in such a profession could display such heteronormative tendencies. The Contreras’ were quick to find another wellness center and another doctor to treat their young daughter.

While searching for a new pediatrician, the couple felt as though they had to stress the fact that they are lesbian mothers and make sure that the doctor is okay with that. In the structure of today’s society, it is unfortunate that such heterosexual privilege still exists. There are so many movements that aim to diminish heteronormativity in today’s society. People try so hard to come together as one system and fight for equal rights of LGBTQ people and as much as their efforts have paid off, society is nowhere near equilibrium. This lack of equal treatment can be seen clearly through Krista, Jami, and Bay Contreras’ case.

Intersectionality, or interactions between systems of oppression and discrimination, is a prevalent issue that unfortunately still exists in today’s society. In order to understand the present, we must be able to understand the past and its history. It is clear that LGBTQ peoples were degraded much more in the past than in the present day. To some, the increase in support and acceptance may resemble a complete transformation, or fix, to the issue. However, as can be seen in the Contreras’ case, there has not been, nor likely ever will be, a complete fix to the inequalities between heterosexual and homosexual peoples. The oppression felt by LGBTQ people, which is based off of the discrimination by people who only believe in heteronormativity can be detrimental, especially in terms of self-confidence and the feeling of acceptance. Krista Contreras states, “Hopefully us telling our story can make sure by the time [Bay is] six-years-old this kind of thing can’t happen” (MyFOXDetroit Staff, “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-sex Couple’s Baby”). Similar to most people in this day and age, Krista and Jami Contreras can only dream of a world where their child can grow up without intersectionality and inequality.

Cornell West once said, “Justice is what love looks like in public”. A world without equality where certain groups of people are oppressed and therefore told that they deserve and are worth less than people with “desirable” characteristics is a world full of hatred. When justice is achieved for all people, that is when the world will be right, or in West’s terms, that is when the world will be full of love. Jami Contreras explains her scenario; being turned down for child care by her pediatrician for the sole reason that she and her wife are lesbian mothers as “[…] embarrassing, it was humiliating” (MyFOXDetroit Staff, “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-sex Couple’s Baby”). When justice is reached throughout the entire world, no human will have to feel embarrassed for being who they are.

Work Cited

Aulette, Judy R., and Judith Wittner. Gendered Worlds. Third ed. New York: Oxford Universty Press,   2015. Print

“Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-sex Couple’s Baby.” MyFOXDetroit.com. MyFOXDetroit Staff, 18 Feb. 2015. Web. 10 Mar. 2015.

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10 thoughts on “Doctor Refuses Treatment of Same-Sex Couple’s Baby

  1. Jac

    Hi Rau, awesome post!

    I really like how you tied in the theme so well into this article! I really like how analyze the ways in which heteronormativity plays into our everyday lives, and even colours the way people perceive parents. I agree that the treatment of the couple was discriminatory, and clearly a struggle that heterosexual people will not have to undergo. How do you think other forms of oppression such as racism, ableism, transphobia and/or cissexism play a role in parents adopting children/seeking medical care for their children?

    I think that some of these analysis would make really interesting topics. For example, there is a huge debate on-going in many communities about deaf culture and preserving deaf culture. When a couple who may want to adopt (such as a gay couple) has a chance to adopt a deaf child the question becomes if they should give the child ear surgery to fix their hearing or not. Some argue that this suggests not being able to hear is a serious “problem” that needs to be fixed, and that therefore deaf people are also inherently problems that need to be “fixed”. It also makes me wonder how that may intersect with things like heteronormativity. For example, would then queer deaf couples be less likely to be able to gain medical care for their children because of who they are? I think it’s an interesting topic to consider.

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    1. rau Post author

      Thanks for the feedback! I think all forms of oppression that people experience will have similarities in their unequal treatment. In saying this, I certainly do not mean that if someone receives discrimination for their race, that a homosexual individual will be able to directly relate. What I mean is that anyone who is subject to oppression knows what it feels like to be judged quickly without other people even having to speak to them or get to know them before making assumptions. For example, much like Krista and Jami Contreras’ case, people are often denied heath rights (whether it be in the form of child heath care or personal health care) just because they are not the “ideal image” of society. I truly believe that in many cases, a while couple who is looking to adopt a child will have better success than a black couple, or a deaf couple, and so on. Even if there are no differences in their qualifications, people will automatically assume that the white couples who are considered “normal” in society are more suited with the ability to raise the child successfully.

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  2. MJ

    Rau,

    Yesterday in the news, fashion designers Dolce & Gabbana made comments that IVF families with same-sex parents were synthetic and I think this relates to the homophobia experienced by the Contreras. When I read the story about the struggles of the Contreras in finding a paediatrician for Bay, it really surprised me that people are still so homophobic and unwilling to treat the child of same-sex parents. Similarly, I was astonished that such a high profile company such as Dolce & Gabbana were publicly making homophobic comments about same sex parents and families.

    I think this plays to the popularity of heteronormativity in today’s society. Many or even a majority of people are still set on the fact that a family must consist of a mother and a father and children. In reality, this is untrue and a family can be defined as almost any combination of parents and children. I think that new sex education curriculum in Ontario will help to socialize children to believe that there is no right or wrong definition of family. In turn, this theoretically should help rid ideas of heteronormativity, and create a more inclusive society for all.

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    1. rau Post author

      Thanks for the feedback MJ! I think that so many people in today’s society don’t see heterosexuality as much of a problem anymore. I believe some people think that since gay marriage is legalized in so many places nowadays, it is no longer something that is to be of concern. We obviously know that this is nowhere near truth. Yes, there is greater freedom and acceptance of homosexual people in the present than there was in the past, however, there is still so much to be concerned about because as can be seen in all of these examples from today’s society, people who stray away from the “norms” of society are often scolded and made to feel rather inhumane. I agree that the new sex education system will help children realize, and grow up with, the knowledge that there are many different ways people can differ from the typical “family”, and that there is no one right way.

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  3. aba

    Hey Rau! Awesome review once again, and great topic choice! I find this article very interesting, and as a student aspiring to go into public healthcare work myself, I am kind of disappointed to see that doctors are letting their own personal values get in the way of their professionalism, as it is (or at least should be) universally known that a patient’s quality of treatment should never depend on gender, sexual orientation, or any sort of identity. I think this article really shows what an impact people with any sort of power (in any form) can have on others. Such treatment only makes the gap bigger, creating more of an ‘us vs. them’ mentality thinking that anyone who differs with regards to personal traditional values is automatically in the wrong.

    I am curious to know… was there anything else Dr. Roi’s said with why she would not treat the patient, or was it simply stated the way you wrote it in your post? Does she actually refer them to another healthcare professional or if she just left the family option-less?

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    1. rau Post author

      Thanks for the feedback aba! Actually, Dr. Roi did not even go into work the morning she was supposed to meet with the Contreras’. She then wrote the family a letter explaining that she realized it was wrong to avoid seeing them after she had made her decision to not treat them, and that after much prayer she just thought that she would not be able to create the kind of patient-doctor relationship that she would usually need to make. However, as I stated in my reflection, if it was the “patient-doctor” relationship she was worried about, technically Bay, the baby, was her patient and she clearly has no sexual orientation of her own at 6 days old.

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  4. Ash

    Hey, Rau! Good job on your analysis of this article! C. Wright Mills coined the term “the sociological imagination”, where individual experiences of discrimination suggest a broader societal issue. I think you took the case of the Contreras and related it to the heteronormative culture we live in very well! Canada has a reputation around the globe for being socially progressive, yet there are still bills being passed that strip certain groups of their rights and it’s still “okay” to turn down refuse to treat a child due to the sexual orientation of the parents. Do you believe we can move toward inclusivity as a society, and if so, how do you think we should go about this?

    Your definition of intersectionality is great and being homosexual is certainly one identity that Jami and Krista Contreras possess, however it’s important to analyze their positionality more deeply. Being white, cisgender and from an upper to middle class background, the Contreras have privileges that others do not have.

    One last question: do you believe it was fair to allow Dr. Roi to refuse the treatment of Bay due to religious or moral reasons that involve her parents’ sexual orientation?

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    1. rau Post author

      Hi Ash, thanks for the feedback! I definitely do believe that we can move towards inclusivity of all people in the society. However, I do not think this will happen overnight, or even very soon. We have seen how much progress society has made and I believe it will continue to make this progress. Slowly but surely. As MJ mentioned in her comment, I believe the new sex education curriculum in Ontario will be very beneficial in teaching younger students about the variety of individuals within society and the importance of including them. This is just one of the many movements that can be taken to teach people the importance of leaving heteronormativity in the past.
      Whether or not it was “fair” for Dr. Roi to refuse treating Bay is a very difficult question. Personally, no I do not think it is fair because I am able to and willing to see Krista and Jami as people no different from you or I. However, clearly Dr. Roi’s religiousness comes into play for her reasoning. I would be in no position to say that Dr. Roi is being “unfair” because she gave her reasons for refusing to treat Bay, those reasons being of her religious and moral values. Maybe she was raised differently and taught that homosexuality is a sin from a young age. This, for example, would be something that she would have to wean out of (or hopefully adapt to) as society becomes increasingly inclusive of homosexual individuals (however, not fully accepting, as we can see).

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  5. mac2121

    Hey Rau! Wow this story really makes me sad… the oppression the family had to suffer through is so wrong. I liked how you highlighted the fact that they baby does not have a sexual orientation of it’s own and would be the patient which makes the doctors reasoning that much more invalid. This definitely is a disappointing story to read as it proves we live in inequality far more severe than what is lead to believe. I really enjoyed how you included Cornell Wests’ famous quote and used it to support your argument. Hopefully people can benefit from this story by spreading the awareness and make a change. Thanks for sharing your work Rau!

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