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Minnesota jury sides with pharmacist pastor who refused to provide the morning-after pill

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A pharmacy employee enters client information as she works to fill a prescription while working at a pharmacy in New York on December 23, 2009. |

A Minnesota jury has ruled that a pharmacist who refused to fill a woman's prescription for emergency contraception in 2019 because of his religious objections didn't violate state discrimination law. 

An Aitkin County jury ruled last week that George Badeaux, a pharmacist at the McGregor Pharmacy in McGregor who also serves as a local pastor, did not violate state human rights law when he refused on moral grounds to provide the morning-after pill to Andrea Anderson in 2019. 

Although ruling in favor of Badeaux, the jury also concluded that Anderson had suffered "emotional harm" to the amount of $25,000.

The feminist group Gender Justice, which represented the plaintiff, denounced the jury's decision and vowed to appeal the case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals.

"To be clear, the law in Minnesota prohibits sex discrimination and that includes refusing to fill prescriptions for emergency contraception," said Gender Justice Legal Director Jess Braverman in a statement.

"We will appeal this decision and won't stop fighting until Minnesotans can get the health care they need without the interference of providers putting their own personal beliefs ahead of their legal and ethical obligations to their patients."

In 2019, Anderson filed a lawsuit, claiming that the pharmacist violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act. A trial began on Aug. 1.

The mother of five claims she had to drive over 100 miles roundtrip in wintry conditions for around three hours to get the emergency contraception from another provider located in Brainerd.

Anderson said she also contacted a local CVS but was declined her prescription request. Anderson is also suing the CVS pharmacy. 

"The pharmacists I encountered ignored my health needs and my doctor's instructions," stated Anderson in a statement. "I could not believe this was happening. I was angry."

Aitkin County District Judge David Hermerding said that questions regarding freedom of religion were not to be considered.

"The issue for the jury is not defendant's constitutional rights," said the judge, as quoted by The Associated Press. "It is whether he deliberately misled, obfuscated and blocked Ms. Anderson's path to obtaining [emergency contraception.]" 

Charles Shreffler, Badeaux's lawyer, said he and his client are happy with the decision and don't believe that Anderson will receive any payments in damages because the jury ruled that she was not discriminated against. 

"We are incredibly happy with the jury's decision," Shreffler said in a statement shared with media outlets. "Medical professionals should be free to practice their professions in line with their beliefs."

The pharmacist will not have to pay the $25,000 unless the finding that he didn't discriminate against Anderson is overturned as the litigation proceeds. 

"In order for [Badeaux] to be liable for damages, he has to be found liable. The jury has to first find that he discriminated against Ms. Anderson on the basis of her sex, and the jury specifically found that he did not discriminate against her," Shreffler told Minnesota Public Radio.

In an interview with "Fox & Friends First" host Todd Piro on Wednesday, Badeaux said he believed that people "should be able to live out our beliefs in our workplace."

"I couldn't fill this prescription because one of the possible mechanisms of action of the medication is that it can prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg into the uterus," Badeaux continued. "In my mind, that would be ending a new human life."

Badeaux defended his refusal to administer the emergency contraception, saying that he "did everything I could" to help the woman "in light of the facts."

"I went out of my way to phone the patient when there was a small possibility that the pharmacist who would be working the next day who would fill the prescription might not make it because of a snowstorm forecast," he added.

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