Anderson v. Thrifty White: Pharmacies Sued for Discrimination

Anderson v. Thrifty White:

Pharmacies Sued for Discrimination

“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. The pharmacists I encountered ignored my health needs and my doctor’s instructions.” -Andrea Anderson, Gender Justice Client

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You are a mother of five beautiful children living in rural Minnesota.

And one night you finally get some quality time with your partner—and your contraception fails.

You’re not planning to have any more children right now, so you visit your doctor first thing the next day, leaving with a prescription for ella, an emergency contraception.

You know that emergency contraception is time sensitive, so you head straight to the only pharmacy in town, Thrifty White, to get your prescription filled. Except, the pharmacist who’s working won’t fill your prescription because of his “beliefs.” The owner of the pharmacy tells you that sometimes this happens and that the pharmacist is also a pastor.

But you’re not giving up. You take your prescription to the next pharmacy, this time a CVS. The pharmacy does not carry ella, so that pharmacist calls the Walgreens one town over and reports back that they are also out.

Skeptical, you call that Walgreens yourself, and what do you know? the CVS pharmacist lied—this Walgreens does have ella in stock, and is more than willing to provide it to you.

But there’s (another) twist – a blizzard is coming and now you must make the decision between buckling your children into their carseats  and driving more than 100 miles in rural white-out conditions, or possibly getting pregnant.

Just imagine.. 

  • Spending three days racing the clock – being judged, misled, and lied to by the very people entrusted with your health care.
  • Driving over 100 miles in life-threatening conditions because they put their personal beliefs over your health care needs.

Our client Andrea Anderson doesn’t have to imagine this exasperating, rage-inducing scenario, because it happened to her last January.

Today, Gender Justice filed a lawsuit on behalf of Andrea 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, makes the case 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.

Read the complaint here

Pharmacists have a duty to provide patients with their prescription medications. And they certainly shouldn’t lie to you about another provider’s willingness to help you.

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.


On May 17, 2021, the Aitkin County District Court in Minnesota’s Ninth Judicial District ruled that our lawsuit on behalf of Andrea can go to trial. This ruling denies motions by both pharmacies – basically, shooting down their arguments that it was not sex discrimination for their pharmacists to refuse to fill Andrea’s prescription. By dismissing these motions, our case can go to trial.

Pharmacists have the same legal and ethical duty as any other health care provider, to help their patients get the care they need. By this standard, Andrea was failed at every turn, and we intend to make sure that no one else has to jump the same ridiculous hurdles she did.

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