Detroit Pediatrician Refuses to Treat Baby With Two Moms — and in Michigan, It’s Legal

Feature image via the Detroit Free Press

A same-sex couple from Michigan has come forward after a pediatrician who had initially agreed to treat their newborn daughter had a change of heart and asked a coworker to break the news that they would have to find another doctor.

Six days after their daughter was born in October, Jami and Krista Contreras found out that Roseville, Michigan, pediatrician Vesna Roi had, after “much prayer,” decided she would be unable to work with the family despite affirming she would do so during a prenatal visit, the Detroit Free Press reports. Roi later wrote the couple a letter apologizing for her inability to work with them, although she neither acknowledges wrongdoing nor explains why it is she “felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients,” according to the Detroit Free Press.

But because Michigan’s anti-discrimination laws do not extend protections to LGBT people, Roi has not broken the law — and if some lawmakers had gotten their way in December, her actions would actually be explicitly protected. Still, the Contrerases say they hope their story will inspire legislation protecting LGBT people.

“You’re discriminating against a baby?” Jami Contreras said to the Detroit Free Press. “It’s just wrong.”

What’s most frustrating about this situation is that, had the family lived in another state, Roi’s unethical behavior would have been subject to legal consequences. Just this morning, a Washington state judge ruled in favor of an LGBT couple who faced discrimination from a florist who refused to work their wedding. ThinkProgress notes that similar cases have repeatedly seen the same rulings in states with LGBT protections on the books:

The string of losses in similar cases follows back to an Iowa wedding venue, a Vermont reception venue, a Colorado bakery, and a New Mexico photographer who all similarly tried to refuse services related to a same-sex commitment ceremony. All of those states have laws protecting against discrimination based on sexual orientation, but there are still 29 states that have no such laws.

Even those states with laws have struggled over whether to keep them, and lawmakers across the country are currently fighting to roll back or prohibit anti-discrimination protections that have been proffered over the last few decades. People like the Contrerases offer important reminders why these policies are critical, because they offer peace of mind to LGBT individuals, who at every turn must consider another layer of potential complications: Should I come out? What will they think? Will they hold it against me?

Where to seek medical care is one of the first decisions parents make for their children. Some recommend researching pediatricians as early as 28 weeks into the pregnancy, so that you have time to find a doctor suited to your child and your family right from day one. For same-sex couples, the thought that a doctor might object to their relationship and thus treat their child differently (or not at all) only further complicates the already stressful decisionmaking process. Anti-discrimination laws work, when they’re there to do so, and it’s frankly mind-boggling that less than half the nation has them. It’s legislators’ responsibility to enact these laws and give citizens the protections they need.

Kaitlyn lives in New York, which is the simplest answer you're going to get if you ask her where she's from. She went to journalism school and is arguably making the most of her degree as a writer and copy editor. She utilizes her monthly cable bill by watching more competitive cooking shows than should be allowed.

Kaitlyn has written 69 articles for us.

16 Comments

  1. I remember all those times I had to go to Sunday school as a kid and the lessons were about how we should never grow up to become doctors who treat the children of gay parents. OH WAIT, NO I FUCKING DON’T.

  2. As a lesbian in a committed relationship, considering having kids, living in Metro Detroit (near Roseville), I am INFURIATED. That woman should lose her job and face legal ramifications. That’s bullshit. I hate living in Michigan sometimes, the bigotry is ridiculous.

    I’m going to be calling the office where Vesna Roi works at and demanding her immediate resignation.

  3. Fuck this shit.

    And the YMCA somewhere in WI (where my grandmother lives) that couldn’t figure out how to let two dad’s fill out a daycare enrollment form.

    Sure, let’s take our bigotry out on the kiddos, why not?

  4. I’m of two minds on this. If this doctor really feels like she can’t have a professional relationship with the baby’s moms because of their sexuality, then this lady has problems, and the couple in question dodged a bullet here. On the other hand, if your beliefs interfere with your ability to provide services to EVERY person who rightfully seeks them out, then maybe you need to go live in some cloistered community of people just like you, because we don’t need that shit out here in the world. And, you know, I’m sure *she* thinks that she was being reasonable — she was right to refer them to another doctor in the clinic, at the very least — but did she have to make a to-do about it, and tell them why? But, oh, she’s not judgmental at all. Some people have no sense of irony. Really.

    • Yeah, I mean clearly they’re better off not dealing with a doctor who can’t feel a deep emotional bond with them, if that’s what they were looking for. But this woman is a doctor. She took an oath to heal people, not to heal people* as long as they live a life she agrees with. It’s unacceptable.

    • I can’t understand her logic. The baby is a baby. The babies parents are not her patients.

      I respect that apparently the difference in values were too great for her to provide a decent quality standard of care. But there are ethical guidelines for this you refer and make it clear that the problem lies in you not them. And until you can refer you have to keep seeing the person.

  5. The Contreres family may be right — that anti-discrimination law should cover all commercial transactions and professional relationships — but I think there should remain some wiggle room. My argument may not hold legal water, but hear me out:

    I think this doctor did this couple and child a favor in opting out but providing another doctor in the practice to see them. They can still get care, and promptly that day, even if they decide to choose another pediatric practice later. And yes, a favor, because who wants to receive care from someone who finds you and your child morally repugnant? Of course, it is the doctor whose prejudice is revolting, but I as a patient I prefer getting redirected to someone who cares, rather than working awkwardly with someone who can barely look at me.

    It is great that this doctor’s refusal has been made public by the couple. This way, any and all of the doc’s patients can shift to other providers if they find her views and practices unethical. I certainly would look elsewhere. In the end, this is going to hurt the offensive doctor in the pocket book and in her professional reputation. A change in the law may not be necessary in these kinds of cases in which a professional opts out but provides an equally competent replacement.

    • I think the bigger issue here is firstly, she had already promised to care for their child and then went back on her word. Roi obviously lacks determination and decision-making skills, which I think is extremely problematic for a pediatrician.

      Secondly, she’s allowing her religion to interfere with her work, which is also extremely problematic for a pediatrician. I mean, what if she sees a child who is clearly being abused by their parents and doesn’t report them because the bible says that parents have the right to discipline their child however they want? Or refuses to treat a child’s mental illness because she believes they just need to pray more? What if she gets a child patient who is LGBT or questioning and sends them off to conversion therapy, which is still legal in Michigan, btw. Or what if one of her patients has Wiccan or Pagan or Atheist or Muslim parents, is she going to refuse them as well? Presumably if she can’t make a “connection” because of their parent’s sexuality, a religious conflict would be just as bad.

      I don’t really see it as doing anyone a favor by refusing to treat people she sees as sinners. She’s just normalizing the behavior and creating a precedent for bigots to refuse to treat anyone they don’t agree with. A change in the law is absolutely necessary and should be a priority for both Michigan citizens and lawmakers, maybe even at a national level.

      • Right, exactly — Allowing one doctor to base her denial of treatment on religious belief opens the door for others whose actions could cause much more dire circumstances. What if she had been the only doctor qualified to treat a rare condition that child had contracted? Would it be okay for the state’s top surgeon to decline to operate on a queer person simply because they didn’t agree with their identity? Could emergency personnel refuse to transport an LGBT person to the hospital after an accident? Plus all the other religion-based examples you provided. This is the kind of “slippery slope” politicians should be talking about when they bloviate on and on.

  6. if it’s a private practice the market will sort this out on a long enough timeline. Who wants to do business with bigots?

    if the practice receives public money at all, time for the courts to get involved

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