A Minnesota jury ruled Friday that a pharmacist who refused to fill a prescription for a morning-after pill because of his “beliefs” did not violate a woman’s civil rights under state law, but instead caused emotional harm and awarded her $25,000 in damages.
Andrea Anderson, who filed the civil suit against pharmacist George Badeaux in 2019 after being forced to travel a 100-mile round trip to get the contraceptive, said she intended to appeal the jury’s verdict in the Court of Appeals of Minnesota to appeal.
“I can’t help but wonder at the other women who may be 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.”
Anderson was represented by gender justice advocates based in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“To be clear, Minnesota law prohibits sex discrimination, and that includes refusing to fill out prescriptions for emergency contraceptives,” said Jess Braverman, legal director for gender justice. “The jury did not decide what the law is, they decided on the facts of what happened here in this particular case. We will be appealing this decision and will not stop fighting until Minnesotans can receive the healthcare they need without interference from providers who put their own personal beliefs ahead of their legal and ethical obligations to their patients.”
There was no immediate response from Badeaux or his attorney.
In what appears to be a unique case, Anderson filed the lawsuit against Badeaux and the pharmacy he works for three years ago under the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
As a mother of five, Anderson was looking for that Ella the morning-after pill in the only pharmacy in her hometown of McGregor (population 391) in January 2019 after a condom broke during sex.
But Badeaux, who has been dispensing drugs from pharmacy McGregor Thrifty White for four decades and is also a local preacher, refused to fill Anderson’s prescription, claiming it violated 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 that he could not guarantee they would help,” the complaint reads.
Badeaux also warned Anderson against trying to have the prescription filled at a Shopko pharmacy in a nearby town and refused to tell her where else she could try, as required by state law, the in said the complaint.
Another pharmacist at a CVS in the city of Aitkin also prevented Anderson from filling the prescription.
Anderson drove for hours “while a massive snowstorm headed toward central Minnesota,” according to the complaint, to fill the prescription at Walgreens in the town of Brainerd.
During the trial, which took place in Aitkin County Circuit Court, Badeaux insisted that he “did not try to interfere with what she wanted to do.” the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported. “I apologize.”
While Aitkin County District Judge David Hermerding ruled in a pretrial order that Badeaux’s religious rights are not at stake in the case, the pharmacist spent most of his time on the witness stand explaining the religious reasons why he has refused to use 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 the way He wants me to live. That includes respecting everyone.”
The Badeaux trial, which began earlier this week, came as the once-dormant debate over contraception was reignited by the Supreme Court decision, Roe v. Wade — and by prominent lawmakers like Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who openly question the constitutionality of birth control.
Last week, the US House of Representatives passed a bill guaranteeing the right to contraception under federal law.
Badeaux currently “holds an active license with the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy,” agency spokeswoman Jill Phillips said in an email to NBC News before the ruling was announced.
Badeaux said in his statement that he opposes giving Ella because it could potentially prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.
“It is my belief, based on much thought and reading, that this [fertilized egg] is a new life,” said Badeaux. “If I do anything to prevent this egg from implanting in the uterus… the new life will cease to exist.”
https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/minnesota-pharmacist-refused-fill-morning-pill-prescription-not-discrm-rcna41561 A Minnesota pharmacist who refused to fill out a prescription for the morning-after pill did not discriminate