Jury rules pharmacy didn’t discriminate for not fulfilling emergency contraception prescription

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Gender Justice is appealing a jury verdict that ruled a Minnesota pharmacist did not discriminate against a woman when he refused to fill an emergency contraception prescription.

The plaintiff, Andrea Anderson, tried filling an emergency contraception prescription in 2019 after her initial method failed, according to a civil complaint filed in Aitkin County. Her doctor sent the prescription to be filled at the Thrifty White pharmacy in McGregor. She was then informed by the pharmacist on duty, George Badeaux, that he would be unable to fill the prescription due to “personal reasons” and “beliefs.”

Anderson said this statement confused her, and that Badeaux did not provide Anderson with information about where or how she could get her prescription filled. When she pushed him to help her find an alternative, Badeaux said the pharmacist working the next day might be willing to fill the prescription, but that the impending snowstorm might stop them from getting to work.

Anderson felt an urgency to obtain the prescription soon to reduce the chance of becoming pregnant.

Anderson also called the Thrifty White corporate number, and the person on the line informed her that the McGregor location was independently owned and operated. She then spoke with the pharmacy manager, Matt Hutera.

The complaint states that Anderson told Hutera that Badeaux refused to fill her prescription based on personal beliefs. Hutera said he was aware of the situation and that it was not the first time that Badeaux refused to fill a prescription, and that he was a pastor at a local church.

When pressed on the store policy, Hutera said that the proper procedure was to make sure the prescriptions got filled. Hutera also reportedly said he “did not agree with Badeaux, but he’s a pastor.” Hutera then told Anderson that Badeaux might be disciplined for failing to make sure a prescription was filled “if it happened again.”

Anderson then drove to a Walgreens in Brainerd that agreed to fill her prescription. This was done during a snowstorm that made the trip significantly longer while her 2-year-old child accompanied her.

Anderson did not get pregnant.

The plaintiff alleges in the lawsuit that Badeaux and Thrifty White discriminated against her because of her sex since “emergency contraceptives are only used by people who may become pregnant to prevent pregnancy.”

While the jury ruled Friday the defendants did not engage in discrimination, the panel still determined Badeux had caused Anderson emotional harm and ordered him to pay out $25,000.

Although pharmacists and pharmacy owners generally must ensure all prescribed medications are dispensed, the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy created an exception in 1999. The complaint states that the exception allows pharmacists to decline to fill a prescription as long as they provide an alternative way for the patient to fill a prescription so they are “made available immediately” to the patient.

A news release from Gender Justice states that the organization will appeal the jury’s verdict that the pharmacy did not discriminate against Anderson.