Court: IVF clinic cannot turn away single customers

by Walter Olson on November 21, 2011

“A single woman who was denied treatment by a west Michigan in vitro fertilization clinic can proceed with a lawsuit claiming unlawful discrimination, the state Court of Appeals ruled in a decision released today. The case against Grand Rapids Fertility and IVF was filed after a doctor there told Allison Moon that his clinic could not provide the service out of concern that Michigan paternity law is so vague that a child conceived by IVF and born to a single mother could successfully sue the clinic for child support.” [Dawson Bell, Detroit Free Press] The appeals court said Michigan’s Elliot-Larsen Civil Rights Act, which prohibits services of public accommodation from discriminating on the basis of marital status among other grounds, extinguishes doctors’ common law right to decide with whom to undertake a physician-patient relationship. [Michigan Health Law Link]

{ 8 comments }

1 Jim Collins 11.21.11 at 12:57 pm

You have to be kidding me. I thought I had heard it all. I wonder what this will mean to a friend of mine’s paternity suit? He worked in a nuclear power plant after getting out of the Navy and when he got married, they decided that they were not ready for children so he had his sperm frozen, just in case. When he got divorced, he had forgotten about having put his sperm in storage. His ex-wife, forged his signature on some paperwork and had herself artificially inseminated. Then she filed suit against him for child support. This is winding it’s way through the courts and I wonder if this descision can be used against him?

2 Marty 11.21.11 at 2:23 pm

Sad. Apparently the question of whether or not she even has a medical fertility problem doesn’t even get raised here.

Poor bastard.

3 Melvin H. 11.22.11 at 1:27 am

Well, wouldn’t the right of free association–and by extension, the right to not associate with someone–trump the Michigan appeals court’s interpretation of the civil-rights law?

4 Smart Dude 11.22.11 at 2:42 am

State and federal governments are acting like Inspector Jauvert in Les Misérables, in seeking out child support billing.

The clinic’s concern that an IVF center could be held liable for child support under the vague Michigan paternity law has not been answered.

5 Uno Hu 11.22.11 at 2:44 pm

Melvin H. <= Unfortunately, almost any private "right" that you can think of gets subordinated to a "civil rights" complaint. I have a company that does bush-hogging on private contract. The "employees" are 100% white (1 person -me), but nonetheless, I expect that at some point I will have to explain to some federal/state/city bureaucrat why I don't need to hire another (black) employee because I only have one tractor to drive and I drive it. This fits right in with penalizing photographers who don’t want to take pictures of weddings with two grooms or bakers who decline to bake cakes for receptions with two brides!!

In the future, the intelligent doctor who finds purposefully fertilizing prospective single mothers distasteful would be well advised to take the mark’s dollars and then proceed to implant non-fertilized or otherwise devitalized ova. Is this really what we want to teach our doctors – that circumstances require now require that to remain in practice they must abandon one or another of their principles (fidelity to that which they consider “wise”, or their obligation to be truthful with their patients)?

6 OBQuiet 11.22.11 at 4:10 pm

I would think that he explaination given clearly showed that she was refused service because of possible legal liability, NOT because of her marital status. Though it was the marital status that opened the issue of liability. Sounds to me as if an improvement in the Paternity laws would have ended the clinics objection.

Otherwise, if the clinics interpretation of the law is correct, are we saying that they can be REQUIRED to father and help raise a child for any unmarried woman on demand?

7 Bill Alexander 11.23.11 at 7:46 am

Would the clinic get visitation? Every other weekend and half the holidays?

8 Xmas 11.26.11 at 5:05 pm

Bill,

The clinic could counter-sue for custody, if the laws are that vague.

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