Pharmacist sued for refusing to provide contraception pills


A McGregor, Minnesota, woman is suing a pharmacist who refused to fill her emergency contraception prescription for morning-after pills, court records showed.

Benjamin Moss via Unsplash

A woman sued a pharmacist who refused to fill her prescription for an emergency contraception pill for religious reasons, according to Minnesota court records.

A jury trial for the lawsuit — initially filed in December 2019 — began on Monday, Aug. 1, court records show. A verdict is expected later this week.

In the lawsuit, a mom from McGregor, Minnesota, accuses her local pharmacy of violating her rights and discriminating against her on the basis of sex after a pharmacist refused to fill her prescription for the emergency contraception pill in an incident from January 2019, the civil complaint said.

The pharmacist, who is also a pastor at a local church, refused to provide the morning-after pill, telling the woman it was due to his “beliefs,” according to court documents.

Attorneys for the pharmacist and the pharmacy did not respond to McClatchy News’ request for comment on Aug. 3

After being told of two other pharmacies that would not give her the pill, the woman ended up driving over 100 miles round trip to a pharmacy that was willing to fill her prescription, the complaint said. She did take the prescribed medicine and did not become pregnant.

The pharmacist later said in a deposition that he had refused to provide emergency contraception three times before the 2019 case. On two of these occasions, the pharmacist refused to give the women Plan B due to his “religious views.”

The Minnesota case was filed years before the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in the Dobbs decision and before Congress passed the Right to Contraception Act, but the trial is taking place amid those national political debates.

The case pertains to Minnesota’s Human Rights Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of a person’s sex – with “sex’” defined to include “pregnancy, childbirth, and related conditions,” the lawsuit said.

According to the judge, David F. Hermerding of Atkin County District Court, the central question is “whether or not he deliberately misled, obfuscated, and put up roadblocks in [the woman’s] path to get her lawful prescription for Ella,” an emergency contraception medicine, and whether the pharmacy itself had “adequate policies in place both to accommodate one of its pharmacist’s beliefs and its duty to the public to be nondiscriminatory.”

For this reason, the pharmacist will not be allowed to use terms like “religious freedom,” “freedom of conscience,” and others in his defense during the trial, the judge ordered. Similarly, because the refused medicine is a contraceptive like condoms or birth control, used to prevent a pregnancy and not to end one, the judge ordered that terms like “abortion” and “terminating a pregnancy” will not be allowed.

The pharmacist is allowed to explain his beliefs “but not in such a manner as to confuse the jury into thinking this is a religious freedom contest,” the judge ordered.

The next hearing is scheduled for Thursday, Aug. 4.

The woman’s attorneys, the nonprofit organization Gender Justice, told McClatchy News that they would be releasing a statement after the verdict.

Aspen Pflughoeft covers real-time news for McClatchy. She is a graduate of Minerva University where she studied communications, history, and international politics. Previously, she reported for Deseret News.

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