First-of-its-kind decision finds pharmacist discriminated in not filling a valid emergency contraception prescription

March 18, 2024

Gabbi Pierce, Communications Manager
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First-of-its-kind decision finds pharmacist discriminated in not filling a valid emergency contraception prescription; Minnesota Court of Appeals remands case to district court for new trial on pharmacy’s liability for pharmacist’s unlawful discrimination

Saint Paul, Minn.—

In a historic and groundbreaking decision, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that a pharmacist’s refusal to fill a woman’s prescription for emergency contraception based on his personal beliefs constitutes illegal sex discrimination under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. The ruling is the first in the United States to find sex discrimination in the context of a pharmacy’s refusal to fill such a prescription.

Gender Justice and co-counsel Lockridge Grindal Nauen PLLP filed the lawsuit, known as Anderson v. Thrifty White, in 2019 on behalf of Andrea Anderson, a mother and foster parent. Despite a valid prescription from Ms. Anderson’s doctor for the emergency contraceptive Ella, the lead pharmacist at McGregor Pharmacy (formerly Thrifty White), told Ms. Anderson that his beliefs precluded him from giving her the medication, and refused to serve her.

“Today’s ruling sends a clear message that discrimination in reproductive health care for any reason is not only unacceptable, but illegal under Minnesota law,” said Jess Braverman, legal director for Gender Justice. “It’s a huge victory for every person who seeks care without prejudice or refusal based on beliefs held by others.”

In August 2022, an Aitkin County jury found that while discrimination under the law had not occurred, the pharmacist-in-charge caused Ms. Anderson emotional harm and awarded damages in the amount of $25,000. Because the verdict failed to protect other patients from illegal and dangerous sex discrimination, the organization and co-counsel appealed the decision to ensure that all patients can safely get the care they need and that their doctors have prescribed.

While today’s decision found the pharmacist’s actions to constitute illegal sex discrimination under Minnesota law, the court remanded the case to the district court for trial on the question of the pharmacy’s liability.

“Businesses in Minnesota should be on notice that withholding medical care on the basis of personal beliefs is dangerous and illegal,” said Braverman.


Gender Justice is a legal and policy advocacy organization dedicated to advancing gender equity through the law. Our vision is for a world where people of all genders, gender identities and expressions, and sexual orientations have the opportunity to thrive. We work towards our vision through impact litigation, advocacy, movement building, and public education.

Lockridge Grindal Nauen P.L.L.P. has served clients throughout the Midwest and in Washington, D.C. for more than 40 years, combining expertise in complex litigation with sharp insights into the legislative process. Our firm’s success on behalf of clients is driven by our commitment to clear and consistent communication with and advocacy on behalf of clients, regardless of the size of the client or the complexity of the matter.

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