CVS & Thrifty White Pharmacies Accused of Discrimination for Refusing to Fill Emergency Contraception Prescription
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 10, 2019
Gabbi Pierce, Communications Manager
Gender Justice announced a new lawsuit today on behalf of Andrea Anderson, who was denied service by pharmacists at two pharmacies – the McGregor Thrifty White and Aitkin CVS – when she sought to fill a prescription for emergency contraception in January, 2019. The complaint, filed in Aitkin County District Court in Minnesota’s Ninth Judicial District, argues that Anderson’s experience constitutes illegal discrimination based on sex, and that denying her service based on her pregnancy-related health care needs violates the Minnesota Human Rights Act.
Anderson’s ordeal began when she brought her prescription for the emergency contraception ella to the local Thrifty White pharmacy, where the pharmacist would neither dispense her medication nor assist in finding a pharmacy that would. The CVS pharmacy in neighboring Aitkin didn’t stock ella at all, but the pharmacist offered to call Walgreens on her behalf, placing Anderson on hold for several minutes before reporting back that Walgreens didn’t carry it either.
“Like anywhere, there are challenges to living in a rural area,” said Anderson. “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. The pharmacists I encountered ignored my health needs and my doctor’s instructions.”
Andrea Anderson, Client
But Anderson decided to call Walgreens herself to confirm, and spoke to a pharmacist who – flatly contradicting what CVS had told her moments before – said the pharmacy did carry the medication and would fill her prescription. She just had to get there. The 50+ mile drive to Brainerd from McGregor would typically take a little more than an hour, but in late January, a blustery snowstorm and below-zero temperatures made the drive much longer and more treacherous.
“Pharmacists have a legal and ethical duty to provide patients with their prescription medications,” said Gender Justice Legal Director Jess Braverman. “Whether it’s a hospital, a clinic, or a pharmacy, no Minnesotan seeking medical care should be left out in the cold due to the personal beliefs of their health care providers.”
“I can’t help but wonder about other women who may be turned away,” said Anderson. “What if they accept the pharmacist’s decision, and don’t realize that this behavior is wrong? What if they have no other choice? Not everyone has the means or ability to drive hundreds of miles to get a prescription filled. I can only hope that by coming forward and pursuing justice that others don’t have to jump the ridiculous hurdles I did.”