Two mothers in Oak Park, Michigan, say they were devastated last year when the pediatrician they had picked to treat their newborn daughter decided not to accept the child as a patient, presumably because her parents are gay.
Jami Contreras and her wife Krista Contreras told The Detroit Free Press they met with Detroit-area pediatrician, Dr. Vesna Roi, in September, before their daughter, Bay Windsor Contreras, was born. They both liked the doctor, they said, and appreciated her approach to treating children. She knew they were lesbians.
But six days after Bay was born in October, the couple got a surprise. Sitting in an exam room with their daughter, waiting for her first checkup, another doctor came through the door and told them Roi had decided not to treat their child.
“The first thing Dr. Karam said was ‘I'll be your doctor, I'll be seeing you today because Dr. Roi decided this morning that she prayed on it and she won't be able to care for Bay,’” Jami told KTVU News.
“I was completely dumbfounded,” Krista, the baby's biological mother, told The Detroit Free Press. “We just looked at each other and said, 'Did we hear that correctly?' .... When we tell people about it, they don't believe us. They say, ‘(Doctors) can't do that. That's not legal.’ And we say, ‘Yes it is.’”
The couple went through with the initial exam then set out to find another pediatric group.
“When we started calling other pediatricians my first thing on the phone was, 'We're lesbian moms — is this okay with you,'” Krista said.
They initially kept their story quiet, but then began telling it on social media and to media outlets because they want to call attention to the discrimination faced by the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.
There are currently 22 states with laws that prohibit doctors from discriminating against patients based on sexual orientation. Michigan has no such law on the books.
And such a law shouldn’t even matter, Bay’s parents argue.
“As far as we know Bay doesn't have a sexual orientation yet so I'm not really sure what that matters,” Jami said. “We're not your patient — she’s your patient.
“We want people to know that this is happening to families. This is really happening,” Jami added. “It was embarrassing. It was humiliating ... It's just wrong.”
Roi declined to comment specifically on the couple’s experience, citing HIPPA law that requires doctors to protect patient privacy.
But she did send a letter to the new moms in February apologizing for not speaking with them personally. The letter never mentions that the two women are lesbians.
“Dear Jami & Krista, I am writing this letter of apology as I feel that it is important and necessary,” the letter reads. “I never meant to hurt either of you. After much prayer following your prenatal (visit), I felt that I would not be able to develop the personal patient doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients.
“I felt that it was an exciting time for the two of you and I felt that if I came in and shared my decision, it would take away much of the excitement. That was my mistake,” the letter continues. “I should have spoken with you that day.”
The couple now has a new pediatrician and they say they are happy Bay will never remember having faced discrimination when she was 6 days old. They hope going public can prevent it in the future as well.
“Hopefully us telling our story can make sure by the time she's 6 years old this kind of thing can't happen,” Krista said.