Minnesota Lawsuit Says Denial of Emergency Contraception Amounts to Gender Discrimination

Supermajority Education Fund

December 17, 2019

In January 2019, Andrea Anderson’s contraception failed. As a mother of five and a licensed foster parent, Anderson knew she needed emergency contraception —a method of birth control that works by delaying and/or preventing ovulation. Though she had lived in the tiny town of McGregor, Minnesota for years, Anderson was still shocked she was denied emergency contraception at McGregor Thrifty White pharmacy — one of the only pharmacies in or near her town, according to a new lawsuit filed in Aitkin County district court in Minnesota on Tuesday.

Anderson said in a phone call with reporters on Dec. 10 that the morning after she called her doctor’s office, a nurse called in the prescription to McGregor Thrifty White pharmacy. Then, Anderson called the pharmacy to confirm they had received the prescription and was told it would be delivered the next day and was covered by her insurance.

An hour later, the lawsuit claims, George Badeaux, the Thrifty White pharmacist on duty, called Anderson, saying he wouldn’t fill the prescription for emergency contraception because of his “beliefs.” Badeaux also warned Anderson that the other pharmacy in the area, wouldn’t be helpful, the filing claims.

Still, Anderson attempted to fill the prescription at a CVS in Aitkin, more than 30 miles from her home. According to the lawsuit, this pharmacist also denied the prescription but offered to call a pharmacist at a Walgreens in Brainerd, Minnesota, to check if that location would fill the prescription. After doing so, the unnamed pharmacist then told Anderson that the Walgreens was also unable to provide the medication.

When Anderson called the Walgreens herself, the pharmacist said they had spoken with a CVS pharmacist but said the location would actually be able to provide the prescription. But a massive snowstorm was headed to central Minnesota.

“Given the increased risk of pregnancy from any delay in taking emergency contraception, Anderson drove over 100 miles round trip in the snowstorm in order to fill her prescription,” according to the filing. 

Later, Anderson spoke to the owner of Thrifty White Pharmacy and was told this wasn’t the first time Badeaux refused to fill a prescription because of his personal beliefs, the lawsuit alleges.

The lawsuit states that the pharmacists’ behavior violates the Minnesota Human Rights Act and amounts to illegal sex discrimination “through denying her service as a result of her pregnancy-related health care needs.” In the lawsuit, Anderson is demanding a jury trial. They’re currently waiting for a response and trial.

“I can’t help but wonder about other women who may be turned away. What if they accept the pharmacist’s decision, and don’t realize that this behavior is wrong? What if they have no other choice?” Anderson told reporters. “Not everyone has the means or ability to drive hundreds of miles to get a prescription filled.”