An Aitkin County jury found on Friday that a pharmacist who refused to fill a birth control prescription because of his religious beliefs did not discriminate against sex under the Human Rights Act. Minnesota man.
The case is believed to be the first in the country to go to trial on an allegation of sex discrimination for refusing to dispense a contraceptive.
However, the jury ordered pharmacist George Badeaux to pay Andrea Anderson of McGregor, Minnesota, $25,000 for the emotional harm she suffered when he refused to fill her prescription for a morning after pill in January 2019.
And the case may not be over. Gender Justice, the St. Paul advocacy group that provided legal representation to Anderson, said it would file a motion asking the judge to overturn the verdict, which is allowed in civil cases. If that motion fails, the group said it plans to appeal to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
The six-person jury deliberated for more than 20 hours Thursday and Friday before delivering their verdict.
“We are extremely pleased with the jury’s decision. Healthcare professionals should be free to practice their profession in accordance with their beliefs,” said Charles Shreffler, Badeaux’s attorney.
“Mr. Badeaux cannot participate in any procedure that requires him to deliver drugs that could end human life in the womb. Every American should have the freedom to operate according to their ethical and religious beliefs.”
Badeaux said he believed the morning-after pill Anderson was researching, a drug called Ella, had the potential to alter a woman’s uterine lining and prevent implantation of a fertilized egg. According to him, it would end a life, he testified.
Anderson’s attorneys presented expert evidence that Ella works by delaying ovulation when taken after unprotected sex. The expert called Badeaux’s interpretation “speculative and hypothetical.”
The issue of contraception has moved to the center of national political debate, with the US House of Representatives last week passing a bill guaranteeing the right to contraception under federal law.
Jess Braverman, legal director of Gender Justice, commended the jury for their service, but said the “undisputed facts” of the case made it clear Anderson had been discriminated against because of her gender.
“To be clear, Minnesota law prohibits sex discrimination, and that includes refusing to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception,” Braverman said. “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.”
Aitkin Pharmacy Services, owner of the Thrifty White pharmacy where Badeaux was chief pharmacist, was found not liable by the jury. The pharmacy is no longer affiliated with Thrifty White and now operates as McGregor Pharmacy.
The case was brought under Minnesota Human Rights Law, which prohibits a range of discrimination, including sex discrimination. Importantly for this case, “sex” is defined by law to include matters relating to pregnancy and childbirth.
After Badeaux refused to fill Anderson’s prescription, he offered to send him to a pharmacy in Brainerd, a round trip of more than 100 miles. Anderson, angry at his refusal, refused and had the prescription transferred to him, then made the trip to Brainerd in wintry weather.
In a statement, Anderson said she pursued the case to help other women who may be facing the same situation.
“Not everyone has the means or ability to travel hundreds of miles to get a prescription filled,” she said. “I can only hope that by coming forward and pursuing justice, others won’t have to jump the ridiculous hurdles I encountered.”
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