A new lawsuit accuses two rural Minnesota pharmacies of “illegal discrimination based on sex” because they refused to fill a prescription for emergency contraceptives.
The lawsuit was filed December 10 by Gender Justice, a legal nonprofit that has been involved in a number of recent high-profile legal cases. The complaint was filed on behalf of Andrea Anderson, a mom and licensed foster parent who lives in McGregor, Minnesota.
According to the lawsuit, McGregor is a “small town with only one pharmacy,” that being Thrifty White Pharmacy. Anderson obtained a prescription for an emergency contraceptive, ella, and had her doctor send it to Thrifty White.
“She acted quickly because any delay in obtaining emergency contraception increases the risk of pregnancy. The pharmacist on duty told her that he would be unable to fill her prescription because of his ‘beliefs.’ He also warned her against trying Shopko, another pharmacy in the surrounding area. The pharmacist did not provide Anderson with any information about how she could get her prescription filled,” states the lawsuit.
Anderson then tried a CVS pharmacy in Aitkin, Minnesota, but the pharmacist on duty “also indicated that she could not fill the prescription.”
“The pharmacist then claimed that she called a pharmacist at the Walgreens in Brainerd, Minnesota who told her that they could not fill the prescription either. Anderson later confirmed with that Walgreens pharmacist that they did speak with a pharmacist from CVS, but that they had told the CVS pharmacist that Walgreens could fill the prescription,” the lawsuit adds.
Anderson eventually found a pharmacy that was willing to fill the prescription, but it was more than 50 miles from her home, the complaint alleges.
“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,” it adds.
The lawsuit argues that denying Anderson service based on her “pregnancy-related health care needs” violates the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The complaints asks for compensatory damages for Anderson and a permanent mandatory injunction against both pharmacies requiring them to “adopt practices in conformity with the requirements of the Minnesota Human Rights Act.”
“Like anywhere, there are challenges to living in a rural area. But I never expected that they would include the personal beliefs of our local pharmacists, or that they would hold—and wield—such enormous decision-making power over my life,” Anderson said in a press release. “The pharmacists I encountered ignored my health needs and my doctor’s instructions.”
Gender Justice joined the American Civil Liberties Union in filing a lawsuit against the Anoka-Hennepin School District earlier this year for preventing a transgender student from using the boys’ locker room. The group has also partnered with the Lawyering Project in filing a lawsuit in Minnesota’s Second Judicial District on behalf of two anonymous abortion providers. That lawsuit seeks to overturn a number of “retrograde laws enacted by politicians decades ago.”
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Anthony Gockowski is managing editor of Battleground State News, The Ohio Star, and The Minnesota Sun. Follow Anthony on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “Pharmacy” by Clean Wal-mart. CC BY 2.0.