In what appears to be a one-of-a-kind case, a veteran Minnesota pharmacist went on trial Monday accused of violating the civil rights of a mother of five by refusing to fill her prescription for emergency contraception.
Andrea Anderson, according to a civil suit filed under Minnesota’s human rights law, requested the Ella morning-after pill in January 2019 at the only pharmacy in her hometown, McGregor (population 391), after the a condom breaks during sex.
“She acted quickly because any delay in obtaining emergency contraception increases the risk of pregnancy,” the complaint states.
But George Badeaux, who had dispensed drugs at the McGregor Thrifty White pharmacy for several decades, refused to fill Anderson’s prescription, saying it would violate his “beliefs,” according to the complaint.
“Badeaux informed her that there would be another pharmacist working the next day who might be willing to refill the medication but could not guarantee that he would help,” the complaint states.
Badeaux also cautioned Anderson against attempting to have the prescription filled at a Shopko pharmacy in a nearby town and refused to tell her where she could try, as required by state law, the complaint says.
Another pharmacist at an Aitkin City CVS also blocked Anderson from having the prescription filled. She ended up traveling 100 miles round trip, “as a massive snowstorm headed toward central Minnesota,” to get the prescription filled at Walgreens in Brainerd, according to the complaint.
Anderson is seeking unspecified damages and wants an injunction compelling Badeaux and the pharmacy he works for to obey state law, which prohibits discrimination based on gender, including issues related to pregnancy and childbirth. ‘childbirth.
Badeaux’s trial, which began Monday with jury selection, comes as the once dormant debate over contraception has been reignited after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — and by prominent lawmakers like Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who openly question the constitutionality of birth control.
Last week, the United States House of Representatives passed a bill that would guarantee the right to contraception under federal law.
Anderson is represented by attorneys from Gender Justice, which is based in St. Paul, Minnesota. Neither his lawyers nor representatives of Badeaux comment on the case.
A Gender Justice spokeswoman said the Anderson case appears to be the first in the country to be tried by a woman who was denied contraception.
Originally, Anderson’s lawsuit included CVS as a defendant.
In court papers, Anderson said that after being pushed away by Badeaux, she called CVS in Aitkin, where a technician told her she couldn’t fill her Ella prescription and falsely told her that she couldn’t get it filled. Neither is Brainerd.
Anderson and CVS reached a settlement before the case went to trial, and she was awarded unspecified compensation, court filings revealed.
NBC News asked CVS for details of the settlement and to see if the technician faced discipline, but it has not heard from the pharmaceutical giant.
After Anderson had her prescription filled, she called Thrifty White Pharmacy and complained about Badeaux’s treatment to owner Matt Hutera, according to court documents.
Badeaux has refused to fill prescriptions for contraceptives at least three other times because he believes they cause abortions, according to the newspapers. He said he opposed Ella’s cast, saying it could possibly prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.
“It’s like taking all care away from a newborn baby by throwing it out the back door into the woods,” he said in a court filing.
But Ella does not cause an abortion. According to the manufacturer, it is a prescription drug that prevents a woman from getting pregnant when taken within five days of unprotected sex.
“If a person is already pregnant, meaning a fertilized egg has implanted in their uterus, emergency contraception ‘will not stop or harm the pregnancy,'” Anderson’s lawyers said in their complaint.
Aitkin County District Judge David Hermerding has previously ruled that Badeaux cannot raise federal constitutional issues such as freedom of religion at trial, although he is allowed to explain his beliefs to the jury.
“The question for the jury is not the constitutional rights of the accused,” the judge wrote. “It’s about whether he deliberately misled, obscured and blocked Ms. Anderson’s path to getting Ella.”