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 caused emotional harm and said she should be entitled to $ 25,000 in damages .
But pharmacist George Badeaux’s attorney said Andrea Anderson is unlikely to get a cent because the jury concluded she was not discriminated against because of her gender.
“We are incredibly pleased with the jury’s decision,” attorney Charles Shreffler said in a statement. “Medical professionals should be free to practice their profession in accordance with their beliefs.”
Anderson, who filed a civil lawsuit against pharmacist George Badeaux in 2019 after she was forced to travel 100 miles to get the contraceptive, said she plans to appeal the jury’s verdict in the Minnesota Court of Appeals.
“I can’t help but wonder about the other women who might be turned down,” Anderson said in a statement. “What if they accept the pharmacist’s decision and don’t realize this behavior is wrong? What if they have no other choice? Not everyone has the resources or the ability to drive hundreds of miles to get a prescription.”
Anderson was represented by attorneys for Gender Justice, based in St. Paul, Minnesota.
“To be clear, Minnesota law prohibits gender discrimination and that includes refusing to fill emergency contraception prescriptions,” said Jess Braverman, legal director of Gender Justice. “The jury didn’t decide what the law is, they decided on the facts of what happened here in this particular case. We will appeal this decision and will not stop fighting until Minnesotans can get the health care they need without the intervention of health care providers who value their own personal beliefs over their legal and ethical obligations to their patients.”
In what appears to be a first, Anderson filed a lawsuit three years ago against Badeaux and the pharmacy where he works under the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
Anderson, a mother of five, sought the morning after pill Ella in January 2019 at the only pharmacy in her hometown, McGregor (population 391), after a condom broke during sex.
But Badeaux, who has been dispensing drugs from the McGregor Thrifty White pharmacy for four decades and is also a local pastor, refused to fulfill Anderson’s prescription, claiming it would violate his “beliefs,” the indictment said.
Badeaux informed her that there would be another pharmacist at work the next day who might be willing to fill the medication, but he couldn’t guarantee they would help.
Badeaux also warned Anderson not to try and get the prescription filled at a Shopko pharmacy in a nearby town and refused to tell her where else to try, as required by state law, the complaint said.
Another pharmacist at a CVS in the town of Aitkin also prevented Anderson from having the prescription filled.
According to the complaint, Anderson had to drive for hours, “while there was a huge snowstorm on its way to downtown Minnesota,” to get the recipe filled at Walgreens in the town of Brainerd.
During the trial, which was held in the Aitkin County court, Badeaux insisted he “didn’t want to interfere with what she wanted to do.” the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported. “I asked to be excused.”
While Aitkin County District Judge David Hermerding ruled in a preliminary injunction that Badeaux’s religious rights are not the issue in the case, the pharmacist spent most of his time in the gallery explaining the religious reasons why he has refused to use 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 respect for every human being.”
The Badeaux trial, which began earlier this week, came as the once-dormant debate over contraception was rekindled by the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade — and by prominent lawmakers such as Senator Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., openly questioning the constitutionality of birth control.
Two weeks ago, the US House 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 testimony, said he objected to providing Ella because it could potentially prevent a fertilized egg from being implanted in the uterus.
“It is my conviction, based on a lot of thinking and reading, that this [fertilized egg] is a new life,” Badeaux said. “If I do anything that prevents that egg from implanting in the womb…the new life will cease to exist.”