Minnesota pharmacies that refused to fill prescriptions for morning-after pills did not discriminate, jury rules

Written by Javed Iqbal

A Minnesota jury ruled Friday that a pharmacist who refused to fill a prescription for a morning-after pill because of his “faith” did not violate a woman’s civil rights under state law, but caused emotional harm and said she should be entitled to $25,000 in damages.

But the lawyer for pharmacist George Badeaux said Andrea Anderson probably won’t get a dime because the jury concluded she wasn’t discriminated against because of her gender.

“We are incredibly pleased with the jury’s decision,” attorney Charles Shreffler said in a statement. “Medics should be free to practice their profession in accordance with their beliefs.”

Anderson, who filed the civil suit against pharmacist George Badeaux in 2019 after she was forced to make a 100-mile round trip to get the contraceptive, said she intends to appeal the jury’s verdict to the Minnesota Court of Appeals .

“I can’t help but wonder about the other women who might be rejected,” Anderson said in a statement. “What if they accept the pharmacist’s decision and don’t realize that this behavior is wrong? What if they have no other choice? Not everyone has the means or ability to drive hundreds of miles to get a prescription filled.”

Anderson was represented by attorneys for Gender Justice, which is based in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“To be clear, Minnesota law prohibits gender discrimination, and that includes refusing to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception,” said Jess Braverman, director of Gender Justice. “The jury didn’t decide what the law is, they decided the facts of what happened here in this particular case. We will appeal this decision and will not stop fighting until Minnesotans can get the health care they need, without interference from providers who put their own personal beliefs ahead of their legal and ethical obligations to their patients.”

In what appears to be a first of its kind, Anderson filed suit against Badeaux and the pharmacy he works for three years ago under the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

A mother of five, Anderson applied morning after pill Ella in January 2019 at the only pharmacy in her hometown of McGregor (population 391) after a condom broke during sex.

But Badeaux, who had dispensed drugs from the McGregor Thrifty White pharmacy for four decades and is also a local preacher, refused to fill Anderson’s prescription, claiming it would violate his “faith,” according to the complaint.

“Badeaux informed her that there would be another pharmacist on duty the next day who might be willing to fill the medication, but that he could not guarantee they would help,” the complaint said.

Badeaux also warned Anderson against trying to get the prescription filled at a Shopko pharmacy in a nearby city and refused to tell her where else she could try, as required by state law, the complaint said.

Another pharmacist at a CVS in the town of Aitkin also blocked Anderson from filling the prescription.

Anderson ended up driving for hours “while a massive snowstorm was heading into central Minnesota,” to get the prescription filled at Walgreens in the city of Brainerd, according to the complaint.

During the trial, which was held in Aitkin County District Court, Badeaux insisted he was “not trying to interfere with what she wanted to do.” The Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. “I asked to be excused.”

While Aitkin County District Judge David Hermerding ruled in an earlier ruling that Badeaux’s religious rights are not the issue at stake in the case, the pharmacist spent most of his time on the stand explaining the religious reasons for his refusal to fill birth control. prescriptions for Anderson and three other clients during his career.

“I’m a Christian,” he said, according to the Star Tribune. “I believe in God. I love God. I try to live as He would have me live. That includes respect for every human being.”

The Badeaux case, which began earlier this week, came as the once-dormant debate about birth control was revived by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade — and by prominent lawmakers such as Late. Marsha BlackburnR-Tenn., who openly questions the constitutionality of birth control.

Two weeks ago, the US House passed a bill that would guarantee the right to birth control under federal law.

Badeaux currently has “an active license with the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy,” agency spokeswoman Jill Phillips said in an email to NBC News before the verdict was announced.

Badeaux said in testimony that he objected to extraditing Ella because it might prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

“It is my belief, based on lots of thinking and reading, that this [fertilized egg] is a new life,” said Badeaux. “If I do something to prevent that egg from implanting in the uterus … the new life will cease to exist.”

But Ella does not induce abortions. It is a prescription drug that prevents a woman from becoming pregnant when taken within five days of unprotected sex, according to the manufacturer.

CORRECTION (August 5, 2022, 7:13 AM ET): An earlier version of this article was in error when the US House passed a bill that would guarantee the right to birth control under federal law. That was two weeks ago, not last week.

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Javed Iqbal

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