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Jury finds pharmacy did not discriminate against woman when refusing to fill ‘morning-after pill’ prescription

By Rebekah Riess and Kelly Murray, CNN

A jury in Aitkin County, Minnesota, on Friday found that a pharmacy did not discriminate against a woman by refusing to fill her emergency contraception prescription, court records show.

However, the jury found the pharmacist did cause the woman emotional harm in the amount of $25,000.

According to the original complaint, Andrea Anderson, a mother and a licensed foster parent, obtained a prescription in January 2019 for Ella — otherwise known as the “morning after pill” or emergency contraception — after her regular contraception failed.

Her doctor sent the prescription to the McGregor Pharmacy, but the pharmacist on duty, George Badeaux, told Anderson that he would be unable to fill her prescription because of his “beliefs.”

Badeaux “did not clarify what his beliefs were or why they interfered with his ability to perform his job as a medical professional,” according to the complaint.

Anderson eventually found a pharmacy that was willing to fill her prescription — after driving over 100 miles round trip in a snowstorm, the complaint stated.

Badeaux’s attorney Charles Shreffler said in a statement he and his client were “incredibly happy with the jury’s decision.”

“Medical professionals should be free to practice their profession in line with their beliefs,” the statement said. “Mr. Badeaux is unable to participate in any procedure that requires him to dispense drugs that have the potential to end innocent human life in the womb. Every American should have the freedom to operate according to their ethical and religious beliefs. Doctors, pharmacists, and other medical providers are no different.”

CNN has reached out to attorneys for the pharmacy for comment.

Gender Justice, the advocacy group representing Anderson, had argued that denying Anderson service based on her reproductive health care needs was illegal sex discrimination and violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act.

The group said it would appeal the jury’s decision to the state’s Court of Appeals.

“To be clear, the law in Minnesota prohibits sex discrimination and that includes refusing to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception,” Gender Justice Legal Director Jess Braverman said. “The jury was not deciding what the law is, they were deciding the facts of what happened here in this particular case. We will appeal this decision and won’t stop fighting until Minnesotans can get the health care they need without the interference of providers putting their own personal beliefs ahead of their legal and ethical obligations to their patients.”

Since a major pharmaceutical business deal in 2017, the so-called morning after pill has become America’s most widely used over-the-counter emergency contraception.

Since the overturn of Roe v. Wade, there are fears that some types of birth control won’t be available, and demand for longer-lasting birth control and emergency contraception, including the morning-after pill, has grown.

Correction: An earlier version of this story contained a photo of the headquarters of a pharmacy chain that is not affiliated with the defendant in the lawsuit. It has been removed. The story has also been updated to make clear the defendant pharmacy’s name and to whom CNN reached out for comment. The story also misspelled the name of the county where the pharmacy is located. It is in Aitkin County.

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CNN’s Keith Allen contributed to this report.

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