After 'Much Prayer,' Pediatrician Won't Treat Baby With Two Moms


The Contreras family. Photo by Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press/ZUMA

When Krista and Jami Contreras chose a pediatrician last October for the baby they were expecting, the soon-to-be moms selected a doctor they thought shared their values. “We were really happy with her. The kind of care she offered, we liked her personality, she seemed pretty friendly. She seemed pretty straight up with us,” Krista told Fox 2.

But when the Michigan couple took six-day-old Bay for her first check-up, they received devastating news: Dr. Vesna Roi, the doctor they’d chosen for their daughter, decided not to accept them as patients because they are lesbians. “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 said. “Dr. Karam told us she didn’t even come to the office that morning because she didn’t want to see us.”

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“I was completely dumbfounded,” Krista, who gave birth to Bay, told the Detroit Free Press. “We just looked at each other and said, ‘Did we hear that correctly?’”

The couple isn’t suing Dr. Roi or her practice, because there is no law in Michigan that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. Dana Nessel, the attorney who represented the couple for their second-parent adoption (which ensures that both women are Bay’s legal parents), says the couple has come forward with their story to raise awareness about the treatment that many same-sex couples face. “They didn’t want to talk about this when it first happened because they were overwhelmed with the whole brand-new-parent thing,” Nessel tells Yahoo Parenting. “But now they think it’s important to come forward. It’s a matter of letting people know that this is a real thing that really goes on.”

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Roi did not respond to Yahoo Parenting’s request for comment, but after the Contrerases first went public with their story last week, she wrote them a hand-written apology note, which was first posted on the Detroit Free Press. “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 wrote. In the note, Roi apologizes for not telling the Contreras about her decision directly, though she doesn’t apologize for denying them care. “Please know that I believe God gives us free choice and I would never judge anyone based on what they choose to do with that free choice.”

Nessel says the letter wasn’t a real apology. “[Roi] is very defiant in the letter about having the right to discriminate against them,” she says. “What if they had gone into the doctor and they had a 6-year-old instead of a six-day-old and the practice basically said to her, ‘we consider you a second-class citizen because of your parents, so were not going to help you’? If you are a pediatrician and you think it’s appropriate to discriminate against a child, maybe you are in the wrong field. Maybe you should be stripped of your medical license.”

Photo by Mandi Wright/Detroit Free Press/ZUMA

There are 22 states in the U.S. that prohibit doctors from discriminating against patients based on sexual orientation, explains Wayne State University Constitutional Law Professor Robert Sedler, but Michigan isn’t one of them. “Michigan has a law prohibiting discrimination with respect to public accommodations on the basis race or gender or religion but not sexual orientation,” he tells Yahoo Parenting. “It wouldn’t be illegal for a baker to refuse to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, and it wouldn’t be illegal for a restaurant to refuse to serve them.”

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Sedler, part of the legal team trying to bring marriage equality to Michigan, says what happened to the Contreras couple is a repeat of a dark time in our country’s past.  “If we go back in history, there was a time when white doctors would not treat African-American people,” he says. “I’m old enough to have seen the face of discrimination a long time ago, and this is that same face.”

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