A Minnesota pharmacist did not violate the rights of a female customer by refusing to give her emergency contraceptives, a jury decided Friday.
George Badeaux faced a lawsuit that went to trial last week after Andrea Anderson sued him under Minnesota’s Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, pregnancy or childbirth. Badeaux claimed that he would not provide Anderson with contraceptives due to his religious beliefs.
Gender Justice, an organization that represented Anderson in the case, told Minnesota Public Radio News that they will appeal the decision.
“To be clear, the law in Minnesota prohibits sex discrimination and that includes refusing to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception,” said Gender Justice Legal Director Jess Braverman said in a statement. “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.”
MN PHARMACIST SUED FOR REFUSING TO FILL PRESCRIPTION FOR EMERGENCY CONTRACEPTION BECAUSE OF RELIGIOUS BELIEFS
Anderson filed her claim after she went to the Thrifty White pharmacy in McGregor, Minn., in January 2019 with a prescription for a morning-after pill. After Badeaux said he would not fill the prescription due to his beliefs, she called other pharmacies that also said they could not fill it. She eventually traveled more than 100 miles round-trip so she could get her prescription filled at a pharmacy that would accommodate her, the complaint said, noting that this took “over three hours” due to a winter storm.
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Anderson’s complaint noted that the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy allows pharmacists to decline filling prescriptions for emergency contraception, but requires them to give the customer information for an alternative way to have it filled. Anderson alleged that Badeaux told her that another pharmacy employee would be in the next day, but that he could not guarantee that this person would help her or even show up due to the weather. Rather than tell her where she could go to get the prescription filled, Anderson claimed, Badeaux told her which pharmacies would not help her.
Aitkin County District Judge David Hermerding said Badeaux could not raise federal constitutional issues such as freedom of religion in his defense, because the case was brought filed under the state’s Human Rights Act.
“The issue for the jury is not defendant’s constitutional rights,” the judge wrote. “It is whether he deliberately misled, obfuscated and blocked Ms. Anderson’s path to obtaining” emergency contraception.
The judge said Badeaux was allowed to explain his religious beliefs to the jury, the judge ruled, “but not in such a manner as to confuse the jury into thinking this is a religious freedom contest.”
While the jury sided with Badeaux on this issue, they did award Anderson $25,000 for emotional harm.
The Asssociated Press contributed to this report.
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