Jennifer Roback Morse

Reproductive freedom is usually a code-word for abortion on demand. But the right to terminate a pregnancy is only the right to say "no" to having a baby. Full reproductive freedom would include the right to pregnancy on demand, analogous to abortion on demand. A California case in which a lesbian couple is suing an infertility clinic suggests we may be closer than we think to establishing a right to have a baby. And far from being an advance for women?s liberty, this development would be a disaster for everyone?s freedom.  We need to look closely at the public relations case in favor of the lesbian couple?s claim to see why.

 In 1999, Guadalupe Benitez went to an infertility clinic to be artificially inseminated with donor sperm. The doctors became reluctant to inseminate her when they realized that she was not married, but in a lesbian relationship. Citing their religious convictions, the doctors sent her to another clinic. The second clinic inseminated the woman. She had her baby boy, who is now three years old. She is suing the first clinic for sexual orientation discrimination. This case is significant, not for the legal issues on which it will be ultimately decided, but for the premises that generate pity for the woman.

 The claim upon our sympathy is that because she wants a baby, she is entitled to a baby.  This implied entitlement is the foundation for all the other arguments. Because of her ?right? to have a child, the doctors do not have a right to refuse treatment. (Notice that these doctors are not refusing to provide lesbians with medically necessary treatment: artificial insemination is an elective procedure if ever there were one.)  The doctors? concern for the future of a child whose mother has made a plan to deprive him of a father counts for nothing. Neither does the fact that they referred her to another clinic and that she ultimately satisfied her desire for a baby. The basis for her suit is that the original clinic refused her,  inconvenienced her and cost her extra money.

 Her claim is that a lesbian woman or an unmarried woman, has the same right to be artificially inseminated as a married woman. Excluding an individual on the basis of marital status or sexual orientation is an affront to that person?s dignity. Doctors who decline to provide an elective procedure deserve to be punished. And the strong arm of the law is the proper vehicle for chastising the insensitive.

Jennifer Roback Morse

Jennifer Roback Morse, Ph.D., is the author of Smart Sex: Finding Life-long Love In A Hook-up World. She blogs at

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