Sitting in the pediatrician’s office with their 6-day-old daughter, the two moms couldn’t wait to meet the doctor they had picked out months before.
The Roseville, Mich., pediatrician — one of many they had interviewed — seemed the perfect fit: She took a holistic approach to treating children. She used natural oils and probiotics. And she knew they were lesbians.
But as Jami and Krista Contreras sat in the exam room, waiting to be seen for their newborn’s first checkup, another pediatrician entered the room and delivered a major blow: The doctor they were hoping for had a change of heart. After “much prayer,” she decided that she couldn’t treat their baby because they are lesbians.
“I was completely dumbfounded,” recalled Krista Contreras, the baby’s biological mother. “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 Contrerases of Oak Park, Mich., are going public with their story to raise awareness about the discrimination that the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community continues to face. There is no federal or Michigan law that explicitly prohibits discrimination against LGBT individuals.
For months, the couple kept quiet about what happened to them and their baby — Bay Windsor Contreras — at Eastlake Pediatrics last October.
But the pain and frustration wouldn’t go away. So they broke their silence.
“We want people to know that this is happening to families. This is really happening,” said Jami Contreras, who was blindsided that fall day in the doctor’s office. “It was embarrassing. It was humiliating. … It’s just wrong.”
The pediatrician at issue is Vesna Roi, 49, who has been practicing pediatric medicine for 19 years.
Roi said that she could not comment on the case, citing the federal HIPAA law, which requires medical providers to protect the privacy of patients. But she did defend her commitment to pediatric medicine and helping children.
“My life is taking care of the babies,” Roi said Tuesday. ” I love my families, my patients. I love my kids. And I have become very close with all my patients.”
Roi, meanwhile, has apologized to Jami and Krista Contreras in a handwritten letter, which was obtained by the Detroit Free Press. It states:
“Dear Jami & Krista, I am writing this letter of apology as I feel that it is important and necessary. 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.”
The letter, dated Feb. 9, did not explain why Roi felt that way, nor did it mention anything about the two women being lesbians. It did, however, state that the Contrerases were “always welcome in our office” and that they could still get care from another pediatrician who was on staff.
Roi also apologized for not telling the Contrerases about her decision in person.
“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 stated. “I should have spoken with you that day.”
The letter concluded:
“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.”
SOURCE: Tresa Baldas
Detroit Free Press