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 the law of the state, but inflicted emotional harm on him and awarded him $25,000 in damages.
Andrea Anderson, who filed a civil suit against pharmacist George Badeaux in 2019 after she was forced to drive 100 miles round trip to get the contraceptive, said she intended to appeal the jury’s verdict before the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
“I can’t help but wonder about other women who might 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 travel hundreds of miles to get a prescription filled. »
Anderson was represented by attorneys from Gender Justice, which is based in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“To be clear, Minnesota law prohibits sex discrimination and that includes refusing to fill emergency contraception prescriptions,” said Jess Braverman, legal director of Gender Justice. “The jury was not deciding the law, it was deciding the facts of what happened here in this particular case. We will appeal this decision and will not stop fighting until the people of Minnesota can get the health care they need without interference from providers who put their own personal beliefs ahead of their legal obligations and ethics towards their patients.
There was no immediate response from Badeaux or his attorney.
In what appears to be a one-of-a-kind case, Anderson filed a lawsuit against Badeaux and the pharmacy he works for three years ago under Minnesota human rights law.
A mother of five, Anderson sought out the Ella morning-after pill in January 2019 at the only pharmacy in her hometown of McGregor (pop. 391) after a condom broke during sex.
But Badeaux, who had dispensed drugs at the McGregor Thrifty White pharmacy for four decades and is also a local preacher, refused to fill Anderson’s prescription, saying it would violate his “beliefs,” according to the complaint.
“Badeaux informed her that there would be another pharmacist working the next day who might be willing to refill the medication but could not guarantee that he would help,” the complaint states.
Badeaux also warned Anderson against attempting to fill the prescription at a nearby Shopko pharmacy and refused to tell her where she could try, as required by state law, the complaint says. .
Another pharmacist at an Aitkin City CVS also blocked Anderson from having the prescription filled.
Anderson ended up driving for hours, “as a massive snowstorm headed toward central Minnesota,” to get the prescription filled at Walgreens in the town of Brainerd, according to the complaint.
During the trial, which was held in Aitkin County District Court, Badeaux insisted he “wasn’t trying to interfere with what she wanted to do,” the Minneapolis Star reported. Grandstand. “I asked to be excused.”
While Aitkin County District Judge David Hermerding in a pretrial order ruled 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 why he refused to fill birth control prescriptions for Anderson and three other clients during his career.
“I am 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 respecting every human being.
Badeaux’s trial, which began earlier this week, came as the once dormant debate over contraception was reignited by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade — and by prominent lawmakers like Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who openly question the constitutionality of birth control.
Last week, the United States House of Representatives passed a bill that would guarantee 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 verdict was announced.
Badeaux, in his testimony, said he objected to the cast of Ella because it could possibly prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.
“It is my belief, based on much thought and reading, that this [fertilized egg] is new life,” Badeaux said. “If I do anything to prevent this egg from implanting in the uterus…the new life will cease to exist.”
But Ella does not cause an 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.