Appeals court rules in favor of woman turned away from pharmacy for emergency contraceptive

Plan B on a shelf
Due to personal beliefs, pharmacist George Badeaux would not fill a prescription for emergency contraceptive in Aitkin County.
Jim Watson | Getty Images 2022

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Monday that an Aitkin County pharmacist’s refusal to give a woman emergency contraception in 2019 was illegal sex discrimination under the state’s human rights act.

In 2022, a jury in that county found that the Thrifty White pharmacist, George Badeaux, did not discriminate against Andrea Anderson when he declined to fill her prescription for Ella, an emergency contraceptive pill, for “personal reasons.”

The lawsuit said he might have a colleague willing to fill it, but with a snowstorm coming, that person may not make it to work. Anderson instead drove 100 miles round trip to Brainerd — through snowy conditions — to get the prescription filled.

Attorney Jess Braverman argued before the court that Thrifty White’s policy denied her full and equal access to goods and services, and “singles out customers by their protected status.”

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Monday, she said that argument was vindicated by the ruling.

“We think it’s really important that the court affirms that it is illegal, that it is sex discrimination, to turn away patients in need of reproductive health care,” she said. “These are really personal decisions; they’re medical decisions and people should feel confident whether they live in rural Minnesota or in a city in an urban area that they will not be turned away when they come to receive their health care.”

The appeals court ruling says a jury trial will be needed to figure out whether the pharmacy is liable, or if the pharmacist was acting on his own and is liable.

Rory Gray, an attorney for Badeaux, said in an emailed statement that nobody should have to violate their conscience in the workplace.

“George politely informed the customer that he couldn’t dispense the drugs due to his personal beliefs. However, he offered to help her get the drug from another pharmacist, which she would have been able to do at the same pharmacy,” Gray said in a statement. “ 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. The court failed to uphold George’s constitutionally protected freedom to act consistent with his beliefs while at work.”

Gray did not say if he will challenge the ruling.