Healthcare worker “conscience clause” expanding

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.


In the latest case reflecting the healthcare worker “conscience clause” movement, a California appeals court has ruled in favor of doctors who refused to artificially inseminate a lesbian patient. Guadalupe Benitez filed a sexual orientation discrimination suit against the physicians at a women’s clinic in San Diego for refusing to artificially inseminate her in 2000.

The details of the case are complex. The plaintiff says that when she first went to the clinic, the doctor she saw told her she could not inseminate her because her religious beliefs did not permit her to perform such a procedure on a gay person. According to Benitez, the doctor told her there was another doctor in the clinic who could perform the procedure. Benitez then underwent almost a year of tests, exams, and surgeries, only to be told she could not be inseminated at the clinic because of the religious beliefs of all of the staff members.

One of the pending legal questions is whether Benitez was denied the procedure because she was a lesbian or because she was unmarried. California law protects citizens from discrimination by businesses on the basis of sexual orientation, but not on the basis of marital status. The doctors’ attorney is claiming that the decision was based on Benitez’s marital status, but the plaintiff’s attorney confirms that Benitez was told that the procedure could not be done because of her homosexuality.

The appeals court ruled in favor of the doctors on the grounds of protecting religious liberty.

Meanwhile, throughout the country, pharmacists continue to refuse to sell certain products to women because of the pharmacists’ religious beliefs. Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Dakota have passed laws allowing pharmacists to refuse to dispense emergency contraceptive drugs. Arizona, Arkansas, California, Georgia, Indiana, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wisconsin have introduced legislation that would allow pharmacists to refuse to provide services. Only three states–Missouri, New Jersey, and West Virginia–have introduced legislation that would require pharmacists to fill prescriptions.

Emergency contrapceptive pills contain high doses of of the hormones that are found in regular contraceptive pills. Emergency contraceptives can delay ovulation and prevent fertilization, and–in some cases–prevent implantation. Wal-Mart led the way by refusing to sell emergency contraceptive pills, and then other retail outlets followed by giving their pharmacists the option to use a conscience clause to opt out of filling ecp prescriptions.

It isn’t just emergency contraception that is being denied women, however. Pharmacists who are opposed to any artificial means of birth control are using the conscience clause to refuse to fill regular birth control prescriptions. Aside from the obvious fact that birth control pills, patches, and devices are legal in the United States, birth control pills are also prescribed to treat certain disorders, such as irregular menstrual periods, acne, endometriosis, and severe premenstrual syndrome. Women whose mothers or grandmothers had ovarian cancer may be given birth control pills to protect them from the disease.

And finally, though condoms are frequently sold at the pharmacy counter, we do not hear about American pharmacists’ refusing to sell them, nor do we hear about an expansion of the conscience clause that would permit checkout staff to refuse to ring up condom purchases.

WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

Wow.

And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

About that: It’s unfathomably hard in the news business right now, and we came up about $28,000 short during our recent fall fundraising campaign. We simply have to make that up soon to avoid falling further behind than can be made up for, or needing to somehow trim $1 million from our budget, like happened last year.

If you can, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones—that exists to make a difference, not a profit—with a donation of any amount today. We need more donations than normal to come in from this specific blurb to help close our funding gap before it gets any bigger.

payment methods

WHO DOESN’T LOVE A POSITIVE STORY—OR TWO?

“Great journalism really does make a difference in this world: it can even save kids.”

That’s what a civil rights lawyer wrote to Julia Lurie, the day after her major investigation into a psychiatric hospital chain that uses foster children as “cash cows” published, letting her know he was using her findings that same day in a hearing to keep a child out of one of the facilities we investigated.

That’s awesome. As is the fact that Julia, who spent a full year reporting this challenging story, promptly heard from a Senate committee that will use her work in their own investigation of Universal Health Services. There’s no doubt her revelations will continue to have a big impact in the months and years to come.

Like another story about Mother Jones’ real-world impact.

This one, a multiyear investigation, published in 2021, exposed conditions in sugar work camps in the Dominican Republic owned by Central Romana—the conglomerate behind brands like C&H and Domino, whose product ends up in our Hershey bars and other sweets. A year ago, the Biden administration banned sugar imports from Central Romana. And just recently, we learned of a previously undisclosed investigation from the Department of Homeland Security, looking into working conditions at Central Romana. How big of a deal is this?

“This could be the first time a corporation would be held criminally liable for forced labor in their own supply chains,” according to a retired special agent we talked to.

Wow.

And it is only because Mother Jones is funded primarily by donations from readers that we can mount ambitious, yearlong—or more—investigations like these two stories that are making waves.

About that: It’s unfathomably hard in the news business right now, and we came up about $28,000 short during our recent fall fundraising campaign. We simply have to make that up soon to avoid falling further behind than can be made up for, or needing to somehow trim $1 million from our budget, like happened last year.

If you can, please support the reporting you get from Mother Jones—that exists to make a difference, not a profit—with a donation of any amount today. We need more donations than normal to come in from this specific blurb to help close our funding gap before it gets any bigger.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate