Some doctors refuse services for religious reasons (including Rx Viagra to Gays)
patients for religious reasons, expanding the list of services they won't provide beyond abortion to include artificial insemination, use of fetal tissues and even prescribing Viagra. The shift is prompting a new round of debate in courts and state legislatures over the balance between protecting the constitutional right to religious freedom and laws prohibiting discrimination.
More than half the states in the past two years have debated expanding legal protections for health care providers, including pharmacists who refuse to fill prescriptions for the "morning after" pill. Two states have passed them.
"We've wound up with statutes that are incredibly broad," says Alta Charo, a University of Wisconsin law professor who studies bioethics. She says the use of fetal tissue in the development of chicken pox and measles vaccines also has become an issue.
When does the freedom to practice religion become discrimination? The California Supreme Court is being asked to answer that question when it hears a legal dispute between a lesbian mom and two doctors who refused to artificially inseminate her for religious reasons.
The first-of-its-kind case is shaping up as one of the most controversial before the court in years. The court has not set a date to hear the case, but more than 40 groups already have filed briefs asking to be heard.
The court is being asked to decide how to accommodate a physician's religious views without violating California's anti-discrimination laws.
California is a major testing ground for this issue.
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