Nation's 1st case over right to contraception begins in Minnesota

In a post-Roe America, a Minnesota jury is tasked to decide this week whether people have the right to emergency contraception in what is thought to be the first case of its kind, according to the Star Tribune.

In January 2019, a pharmacist allegedly refused to provide emergency contraception to Minnesota resident Andrea Anderson after a condom broke during sex, according to the Star Tribune. Ms. Anderson, a mother of five, then sued under the Minnesota Human Rights Act. 

The legal group representing Ms. Anderson, Gender Justice, told the Star Tribune the case is the first in the U.S. carried by a woman who was refused contraception. 

According to the case, the pharmacist declined to fill her prescription for emergency contraceptive Ella, which works to delay or prevent ovulation, because of his beliefs. The story echoes other reports popping up in the last few weeks as states and pharmacies scramble to decide what to do after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade

It took the American Pharmacists Association a month to respond to the decision that has caused disruptions across the pharmaceutical industry. The July 25 statement recognized the ruling would affect millions of people and called for more clarity on "conflicting laws," but backed each pharmacist's agency, which could complicate federal policies. 

"APhA stands behind a pharmacist's professional and ethical obligation to their patients to assure optimal health outcomes," the organization said. "APhA policy recognizes a pharmacist's responsibility to exercise professional judgment and conscience in the best interest of patients, and APhA policy opposes state and federal laws that limit the ability of a pharmacist to use their professional judgment."

In the hopes of alleviating confusion at the national level, the HHS clarified on July 13 that refusing products related to reproductive health is illegal, and the House passed the Right to Contraception Act July 21, which faces an uncertain future in the evenly split Senate. 

Pharmacists — and their employers — are stuck in the crossfire. Walgreens has deferred "moral objection" judgments to the individual worker, and CVS is asking pharmacists in some states to ensure prescriptions aren't intended to induce an abortion.

The Minnesota case could point to which direction the nation is moving toward. The defendant, pharmacist George Badaeux, refused to dispense Ella because he thought it could stop a fertilized egg from implanting, which would stop "the new DNA, the new life, from being able to continue to live and grow," he said in his testimony, according to the Star Tribune. "It is similar to removing all care from a newborn child by throwing it out the backdoor into the woods." 

The case is expected to finish within the week.

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