In 2019, Andrea Anderson’s primary birth control method had failed, so she called her health care provider to ask for a prescription to Ella, an emergency contraceptive tablet. But when she went to the local McGregor Thrifty White pharmacy in Aitkin County, Minnesota, pharmacist and local pastor George Badeauxciting his religious beliefs. He told her that a pharmacist working the following day could fill her needs if a snowstorm didn’t prevent the pharmacist from getting to work.The desperate woman ended up driving three hours round trip to Brainerd during a snowstorm to get her pregnancy-terminating pills.
Anderson sued under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, alleging sexual discrimination. The jury ruled against her.
Ethics Alarms verdict: the jury was right on the law, but the pharmacist was unethical.
The position here has been that conscience clauses for pharmacists are unethical: if a job involves filling prescriptions, then those who work for pharmacies can’t pick and choose which prescriptions to fill. That means that Badeaux was unethical to hold the job, and that the pharmacy is unethical for allowing someone to stay in the job who refuses to fill certain legal prescriptions for any reason, religious or not.
However, what matters here is the law, and refusing to fill a contraceptive prescription is not discriminatory just because the only individuals who are subject to it will be women. Presumably the pharmacist wouldn’t have sold the pills to a man either. Badeaux is an asshole, not a bigot.
The jury did find, however, that Badeaux and the pharmacy caused Anderson emotional distress worth $25,000. Good.
Now he needs to be removed from his job, not because of his religious beliefs, but because he can’t be trusted to deliver the services his profession is bound to deliver.