Minnesota pharmacist who refused morning-after capsule prescription didn’t discriminate, jury guidelines

A Minnesota jury ruled Friday that a pharmacist who refused to fill a prescription for consecutive morning pills because of his “faith” she 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 is unlikely to get a dime because the jury found she was not discriminated against because of her sex.

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

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

“I can’t help but wonder about the other women who might have been turned away,” 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 fill a prescription .”

Lawyers for Gender Justice, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, represented Anderson.

“To be clear, the law in Minnesota prohibits sex discrimination and that includes refusing to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception,” said Gender Justice Law Director Jess Braverman. “The jury wasn’t deciding what the law was, they were deciding the facts of what happened here in this particular case. We will appeal this decision and we will not stop fighting until Minnesotans can access the health care they need without having providers put their own personal beliefs ahead of their legal and ethical obligations to their patient.”

In what appears to be a case of the first kind, Anderson filed the lawsuit against Badeaux and the pharmacy he operates three years ago under the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

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

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

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

Badeaux also warned Anderson not to try to fill the prescription at a Shopko pharmacy in a nearby town and refused to tell her where else she could try, as required by state law, the complaint stated .

Another pharmacist at CVS in the city of Aitkin also prevented Anderson from filling the prescription.

Anderson ended up driving for hours, “even though central Minnesota was in the midst of a massive snowstorm,” to fill the prescription at a Walgreens in the city of Brainerd, according to the complaint.

During the trial, which was held in Aitkin County District Court, Badeaux insisted that he “didn’t want to interfere with what she was trying to do.” the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. “I wanted to be sorry.”

Although Aitkin County District Judge David Hermerding ruled, in a pretrial order, that Badeaux’s religious rights were not at issue in the case, the pharmacist spent most of his time on the stand explaining the religious reasons for his refusal. to fill contraception. recipes for Anderson and three other customers 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 the way he would want me to live. That includes respecting everyone.”

The Badeaux trial, which began earlier this week, reignited the dormant debate on contraception. the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade to be canceled — and by prominent legislators such as Sen. Marsha BlackburnR-Tenn., openly questioning the constitutionality of birth control.

Two weeks ago, the US House passed a bill that would guarantee the right to contraception 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, in evidence, said that he objected to Ella’s distribution because it could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.

“It is my opinion, based on much thought and reading, that this is [fertilized egg] it’s a new life,” Badeaux said. “If I do anything that prevents that egg from implanting in the uterus … the new life ceases to exist.”

But Ella does not advocate abortion. 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 ET): A previous version of this article misstated when the US House passed a bill that would guarantee the right to contraception under federal law. It was two weeks ago, not last week.

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