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Minnesota Court Rules Against Pharmacist, Says He Discriminated Against Woman by Denying Emergency Contraception

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Minnesota Court Rules Against Pharmacist, Says He Discriminated Against Woman by Denying Emergency Contraception
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A Minnesota court has ruled against a pharmacist who refused to provide emergency contraceptives to a customer because of his personal beliefs and practices. This case started sometime in 2019 when a woman, Andrea Anderson, walked into a pharmacy to purchase a morning-after pill. 

She asked for the Ella brand pill, but pharmacist George Badeaux refused to fill her prescription, which could have stopped the pregnancy before it started. Therefore, Anderson was already running against time and had no choice but to go elsewhere to get it. She said that she traveled about 100 miles (160 kilometers) round trip from the pharmacy in McGregor to another pharmacy in Brainerd, where she finally filled the prescription.

Later that year, Anderson filed a lawsuit against Badeaux. She claimed he discriminated against her and violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act. Now, the Minnesota Appeals Court has ruled against the pharmacist. “Badeaux’s refusal to dispense emergency contraception because it may interfere with a pregnancy is sex discrimination,” Judge Jeanne Cochran wrote in the ruling.

Earlier in 2022, a jury found the pharmacist had not discriminated against Anderson but should pay her $25,000 because of emotional harm. However, she couldn’t collect the money as there was no finding of discrimination. Now, the appeal court’s ruling has changed things. 

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Per the court’s decision, the case will be appealed to the Minnesota Supreme Court or returned to the district court. Jess Braverman, Anderson’s attorney and the legal director of Gender Justice, is pleased with this ruling. As the organization seeks to establish gender equity, she believes it is a win for women. 

She also noted that this may be the first ruling in the country to find that a refusal to dispense emergency contraception is a form of sex discrimination. Alison Tanner, a senior litigation counsel for reproductive rights and health at the National Women’s Law Center, agreed to this. 

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Furthermore, Braverman said that the ruling showed Minnesota businesses that “you can’t just turn away patients in need of reproductive health care.” Women deserve quick and effective medical care, especially when it comes to reproductive care. 

On the other hand, Badeaux’s team criticized the court’s ruling. Rory Gray, a senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian advocacy group, represented the pharmacist during the trial. “As a devout Christian, George believes every human life has value. As such, George cannot provide or facilitate the use of any potential abortion-causing drugs,” Gray said in a statement. 

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“The court failed to uphold George’s constitutionally protected freedom to act consistent with his beliefs while at work.” After the unfavorable 2022 ruling, Anderson’s lawyers appealed the jury’s decision.

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They argued that Badeaux discriminated against Anderson based on her sex when he refused to fill her prescription for a drug that was only prescribed to women. That was the smart move, as the appeals court has found him guilty of discriminating against Anderson.

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