Pharmacist’s Refusal of Emergency Contraception Sparks Legal Battle on Discrimination

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Attorneys representing a woman who was denied emergency contraception in 2019 presented their case before the Minnesota Court of Appeals on Thursday. The legal team argued that the pharmacist’s refusal to fulfill the prescription amounted to discrimination based on the woman’s sex.

In response to the recent controversy surrounding George Badeaux, the pharmacist at Thrifty White in central Minnesota, his attorney has come forward to assert that Badeaux’s decision to withhold the drug based on his religious beliefs does not infringe upon any state or federal laws.

A jury determined that Badeaux, a defendant in the case, was not found guilty of discrimination against Andrea Anderson. Anderson, who is both a mother and foster parent, had her prescription for Ella, a medication utilized to prevent pregnancies before they occur, denied by Badeaux. According to Jess Braverman, one of Anderson’s lawyers, the jury has also granted her a sum of $25,000 as compensation for emotional harm. However, it is important to note that Anderson will not be able to collect this money as there was no determination of discrimination.

Gender Justice, a prominent advocacy organization dedicated to promoting gender equity, along with other legal representatives representing Anderson, have lodged an appeal against the jury’s decision earlier this year.

In court on Thursday, Braverman, the legal director for Gender Justice, asserted that the incident constituted discrimination based on pregnancy.

Badeaux has been accused of engaging in illegal discrimination against Anderson based on her gender. This allegedly occurred when he declined to fulfill her prescription for a medication that is exclusively prescribed to women.

In 2019, Anderson managed to have her prescription filled at a pharmacy in Brainerd, despite the challenging wintry driving conditions. This required her to embark on a round-trip journey of over 100 miles (161 kilometers).

Rory Gray, a lawyer representing Badeaux, made the argument that both federal and state law do not categorize Badeaux’s actions as pregnancy discrimination.

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Examining the Legal Landscape of Discrimination Claims in Healthcare – A Case Study on Minnesota’s Human Rights Act

According to Gray, the Minnesota Human Rights Act is primarily concerned with motives rather than consequences. According to the statement, it is alleged that Mr. Badeaux had a discriminatory motive. In a verdict delivered by the jury, it was determined that he did not. According to the statute, the focus is not so much on what is done, but rather on why it is done.

As stated by Gray, Badeaux’s refusal to fill the prescription was not due to a lack of focus on himself or on Anderson. The individual’s primary focus was directed towards a third party. According to Gray, this is the life that is created when an egg is fertilized.

According to Braverman, the intention behind Badeaux’s actions towards Anderson is inconsequential.

They believe that the mentioned aspect does not qualify as an element of a discrimination claim. According to Braverman, the key factor is whether the person was denied full and equal access to goods and services.

The court’s instruction to the jury was that if Mr. Badeaux did not have the intention to cause harm, stigma, and shame to Ms. Anderson, then they could not find him guilty of discrimination. According to Braverman, the law in Minnesota does not solely focus on whether an act of discrimination occurred, but rather on the intention behind it. Braverman emphasized that there is uncontroverted testimony indicating the presence of discriminatory intent in this particular case.

The appeal is currently under review by a panel of three judges, who are expected to deliver their ruling within a period of 90 days.

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to terminate constitutional protections for abortion in the previous year, a divergent landscape has emerged across states regarding reproductive healthcare. While certain states have taken steps to broaden access to emergency contraceptives and birth control, others have opted to curtail access and implement stringent abortion prohibitions.

According to the American Society for Emergency Contraception, numerous universities nationwide have implemented the availability of emergency contraceptives through vending machines. In states where abortion is largely banned, such as Oklahoma, certain institutions like the University of Tulsa find themselves situated.

 

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