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Jury rules Minnesota pharmacist did not discriminate against woman when he denied her morning-after pill

Minnesota case weighs right to emergency contraception
Minnesota case weighs right to emergency contraception 00:37

AITKIN COUNTY, Minn. -- A jury in Aitkin County found that a pharmacist did not discriminate against a woman when he refused her request in 2019 to fill a prescription for emergency contraception, citing his beliefs.

Andrea Anderson sued the McGregor Thrifty White pharmacy under the Minnesota Human Rights Act after pharmacist and local pastor George Badeaux refused to accommodate her request. She had called her health care provider to ask for a prescription to Ella, an emergency contraceptive tablet, after her primary method of birth control failed. 

State law prohibits discrimination based on sex, and the lawsuit said - because emergency contraceptives are "only used by people who may become pregnant" - that the pharmacist discriminated against her.

The lawsuit also said Badeaux did not provide Anderson with any alternatives to getting the care she needed and instead "tried to prevent [her] from obtaining that care from others by putting delays and obstacles in her path," by only telling her ways she could not fill her prescription.

Anderson, a mother and foster parent from McGregor, ended up driving three hours round trip to Brainerd in the middle of a snowstorm to receive her contraception, the lawsuit states.

The jury on Friday found, however, that discrimination based on her sex had not occurred. But Badeaux and the pharmacy did cause Anderson emotional harm in the amount of $25,000.

"I can't help but wonder about the other women who may be turned away," Anderson said in a statement after the ruling. "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 and her lawyers say they will appeal the case.

The civil trial comes amid a national debate about contraception and reproductive health care access after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June. The U.S. House passed a bill last week that would guarantee the right to contraception. 

Last month, a pharmaceutical company asked for permission to sell a birth control pill over the counter in the U.S.

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