In what appears to be a top-notch case, an experienced Minnesota pharmacist was on trial Monday charged with violating the civil rights of a mother of five by refusing to fill her emergency contraception prescription.
Andrea Anderson, according to a civil lawsuit filed under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, sought the morning-after pill Ella from the only pharmacy in her hometown, McGregor (population 391), in January 2019 after a condom broke during sex.
“She acted quickly because any delay in getting emergency contraception increases the risk of pregnancy,” the complaint states.
But George Badeaux, who had been dispensing drugs from the McGregor Thrifty White pharmacy for decades, refused to fill Anderson’s prescription, claiming it would violate his “beliefs,” the indictment said.
Badeaux informed her that another pharmacist would be on duty the next day who might be willing to fill the medication, but could not guarantee they would help.
Badeaux also warned Anderson not to get the prescription filled at a Shopko pharmacy in a nearby town and refused to tell her where else to try, as required by state law, the complaint said.
Another pharmacist at a CVS in the town of Aitkin also prevented Anderson from having the prescription filled. She ended up traveling 100 miles round-trip, “while there was a massive snowstorm heading into central Minnesota,” to get the recipe filled at Walgreens in Brainerd, according to the complaint.
Anderson is seeking unspecified damages and seeking a court order requiring Badeaux and the drugstore he works for to follow state law, which prohibits gender discrimination, including issues related to pregnancy and childbirth.
The Badeaux trial, which began Monday with the jury selection, comes as the once-dormant debate on contraception was rekindled. after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade — and by prominent lawmakers like Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., who openly question the constitutionality of contraception.
Last week, the US House passed a bill that would guarantee the right to contraception under federal law.
Anderson is represented by attorneys from Gender Justice, based in St. Paul, Minnesota. Neither her lawyers nor Badeaux’s representatives are commenting on the case.
A Gender Justice spokeswoman said the Anderson case appears to be the first in the country to be brought to trial by a woman who was denied birth control.
Originally, Anderson’s lawsuit included CVS as a defendant.
In court papers, Anderson said that after she was turned down by Badeaux, she called the CVS in Aitkin, where a female technician told her she couldn’t fill her Ella prescription and falsely told her she couldn’t fill it with Brainerd as well.
Anderson and CVS reached a settlement before the case went to trial, and she received unspecified compensation, court records revealed.
NBC News asked CVS for details of the settlement and to see if the technician faced any discipline, but it hasn’t heard back from the pharmaceutical giant.
After Anderson filled her prescription, she called the Thrifty White pharmacy and complained about how Badeaux treated her to owner Matt Hutera, court papers show.
Badeaux has refused to fill prescriptions for contraceptives at least three more times because he believes they cause abortions, according to the papers. He said he objected to providing Ella because it could prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus.
“It’s akin to removing all care from a newborn child by throwing it into the woods through the back door,” he said in a lawsuit.
But Ella doesn’t induce an abortion. It is a prescription drug that, according to the manufacturer, prevents a woman from becoming pregnant if taken within five days of unprotected sex.
“If a person is already pregnant, meaning a fertilized egg has been 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 already ruled that Badeaux may not raise federal constitutional issues such as freedom of religion at trial, although he may explain his convictions to the jury.
“The point for the jury is not the constitutional rights of the accused,” the judge wrote. “The point is whether he deliberately misled, obscured and blocked Mrs. Anderson’s path to obtaining Ella.”