Bay IVF specialists: same-sex couples deserve equal access to fertility medicine
SAN RAMON, CALIFORNIA – Reproductive Science Center of the Bay Area (RSC), one of the state’s oldest and most prominent infertility practices, has expanded its outreach to gay and lesbian couples, many of whom are denied equal access to fertility medicine.
“Achieving pregnancy is usually an intensely emotional process for all couples, and given Northern California’s sizeable gay and lesbian population, we felt it appropriate to direct some of our public education efforts toward a community that may face fewer parenting options than heterosexual couples,” said Dr. Susan P. Willman, Medical Director of RSC’s Orinda clinic.
This spring, RSC expanded its public education efforts toward same-sex couples by participating in alternative community events and advertising in gay and lesbian publications, in hopes of raising awareness about assisted reproductive technology (ART) options among same-sex couples.
“I have noticed that the physiological and psychological concerns of prospective parents – regardless of their marital status or sexual preferences – are pretty much the same,” said Dr. Willman. “Procreation is a natural human desire and being a parent is a fulfilling spiritual experience for everyone.”
Not all fertility programs that receive requests to treat same-sex couples, as well as single persons, comply. Some programs will treat single women and lesbian couples but will not assist single men or gay couples to have children.
In September the California Supreme Court began hearings on a case in which a San Diego lesbian patient, Guadalupe Benitez, was denied infertility treatment because of her doctors’ religious beliefs regarding her lifestyle. This case thrust the issue of fertility for same-sex couples into the spotlight just as activists around the country began turning attention toward enacting legislation to ban adoption by same-sex couples.
“My professional training as a physician was to treat all patients for their medical problems, not to carry judgment about social values. A patient’s preferences are private issues,” Dr. Willman added, “but naturally we work to ensure their confidence and optimum health.”
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine (ASRM) ethics committee states that “denial of access to fertility services on the basis of marital status or sexual orientation cannot be justified,” adding that “long experience has shown that not all deviations from this model necessarily harm offspring or society. As a result, we find that neither concerns about the welfare of children nor the need to promote marriage justify denying reproductive services to unmarried persons, including those who are gay or lesbian.”
“As a matter of ethics, we believe that the ethical duty to treat persons with equal respect requires that fertility programs treat single persons and gay and lesbian couples equally with married couples in determining which services to provide. Unless other aspects of the situation also would disqualify married or heterosexual individuals from services, such as serious doubts about whether they will be fit or responsible child rearers or the fact that the program does not offer anyone a desired service, for example, gestational surrogacy, we find no sound ethical basis for licensed professionals to deny reproductive services to unmarried or homosexual persons.”