After spending months picking out the ideal pediatrician for their newborn daughter, a lesbian couple in Michigan said they were refused care because of their sexual orientation.
Jami and Krista Contreras decided on a holistic Roseville pediatrician, 49-year-old Vesna Roi, that they had interviewed months before their daughter Bay was born. She knew they were lesbians.
However, when the couple brought in their six-day-old daughter for her first checkup, a different pediatrician said their doctor had a change of heart and after “much prayer” decided she couldn’t treat their baby because they are lesbians.
“I was completely dumbfounded,” the baby’s biological mother Krista said. “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.’”
Though 22 states have laws prohibiting doctors from discriminating based on sexual orientation, Michigan isn’t one of them.
“We want people to know that this is happening to families,” Jami said. The couple is coming out with their story to raise awareness of discrimination. “It was embarrassing. It was humiliating…It’s just wrong.”
Roi, who has been practicing pediatric medicine for 19 years, said because of the federal HIPPA law, she cannot comment on this specific case. She did, however, say, “My life is taking care of the babies. I love my families, my patients. I love my kids. And I have become very close with all my patients.”
She also wrote a handwritten letter, dated February 9 to the couple. It did not mention the couple being lesbians nor did it explain why Roi felt she couldn’t help the couple.
“Dear Jami & Krista, I am writing this letter of apology as I feel that it is important and necessary,” she wrote. “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.”
She went on to say the Contreras’ were, “always welcome in our office,” and could get care from another pediatrician on staff. She also apologized for not speaking to the couple in her office that day directly.
“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,” she wrote. “That was my mistake.”
Roi ended the letter by writing: “Please know that I believe that God gives us free choice and I would never judge anyone based on what they do with that free choice. Again, I am very sorry for the hurt and angry feelings that were created by this. I hope that you can accept my apology.”
Attorney Dana Nessel, who is handling the Michigan same-sex marriage case about to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, said the laws need to be changed.
“It’s a very scary thing,” she said. “What kind of society are we that we would allow this to happen?”
The couple, who are not suing Roi because they conceded she did nothing illegal, is hoping to raise awareness of LGBT discrimination.
“It was embarrassing, it was humiliating and her we are, new parents trying to protect her,” Jami said. “And we know this happens in the world and we’re completely prepared for this to happen other places. But not at our six-day-old’s wellness appointment.”