A Minnesota mom is suing two different pharmacies, alleging they denied her prescription for emergency contraception in what amounts to a form of sex-based discrimination.
Andrea Anderson ― a 39-year-old mother of five who lives in the rural town of McGregor about 100 miles north of Minneapolis ― knew she didn’t want more children after a mishap with a condom, her typical form of contraception.
“The next morning, I got up and said, ‘We can’t roll the dice,’” she told KSTP in a story published Tuesday.
Anderson said her doctor then prescribed Ella, a prescription-only morning-after pill that’s effective for up to five days after unprotected sex. The prescription was sent to her local pharmacy, Thrifty White Pharmacy.
In the lawsuit filed this week in Aitkin County, Minnesota, Anderson alleged the pharmacist there, a man named George Badeaux, refused to fill her prescription based on his “beliefs” and warned her against trying to get it filled at another nearby pharmacy.
Anderson said she then drove to a CVS some 20 miles away from her home, which also declined the prescription, and allegedly told her a Walgreens some 50 miles away didn’t have the pill. But then, Anderson says, she called the Walgreens herself and found out the pill was available there. She drove through a treacherous snowstorm to fill the prescription.
“I had to take my 2-and-a-half-year-old out in the snowstorm, wind, blowing snow, freezing temperatures to drive to Brainerd just to get my prescription,” Anderson told WCCO. She did not get pregnant.
The suit argues that although pharmacists in Minnesota are allowed to deny patients seeking an emergency-contraception prescription because of religious or personal objections, they must counsel the patient on another place to get the drug, according to the Washington Post.
“Under the exception, it is the ‘responsibility of the pharmacist-in-charge to make arrangements with a nearby pharmacy to fill these prescriptions so that the appropriate information can be communicated immediately to patients,’” the suit says.
Cody Wiberg, director of the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, said these sorts of instances are very rare. He told KSTP that this is just the third such complaint in 20 years.
But Anderson's situation is part of a larger trend of women being denied certain care in the U.S. Walgreens made headlines in June of last year, for instance, when it defended a pharmacist who refused to give a woman her prescription to end her failed pregnancy. According to the advocacy group the National Women’s Law Center, reports of women being denied emergency contraceptives or birth control have surfaced in at least 24 states.
Anderson, who is represented by Minnesota nonprofit Gender Justice, is arguing the pharmacists at Thrifty White and CVS did not help her get the prescription and one even told her incorrect information. The suit argues that preventing Anderson from getting emergency contraception in this manner amounts to sex-based discrimination.
“When pharmacists refuse to fill a prescription due to their personal beliefs, refuse to follow the rules of the Pharmacy Board and have a backup referral … they’re violating those rights,” Gender Justice executive director Megan Peterson told the Duluth News Tribune. “They’re putting their personal beliefs ahead of someone’s health care.”
Cover: A colorful window display shows the CVS Pharmacy company logo on a CVS retail store in Washington, Wednesday, April 3, 2019. (AP Photo/NewsBase)