A Minnesota jury found that a pharmacy did not discriminate against a woman when it denied to give her the morning-after pill.
The pharmacist gave “belief” as the reason for refusing to fill the prescription for emergency contraception. Although the jury decided that the woman’s rights had not been violated, it did say that the emotional damage caused by the decision amounted to $25,000.
Gender Justice, a legal advocacy nonprofit, filed the lawsuit on behalf of Andrea Anderson in 2019, although the case did not reach trial until Monday.
Anderson was denied morning-after contraceptive bills by numerous pharmacies, and said she would have to travel 100 miles total to get a pill.
In a statement released by Gender Justice, she expressed concern about the precedent the jury’s decision sets and the message it gives to other women seeking emergency contraception.
“What if they accept the pharmacist’s decision and don’t realize that this behavior is wrong? What if they have no other choice?” Anderson said. “Not everyone has the means or ability to drive hundreds of miles to get a prescription filled.”
“Unfortunately, highly personal healthcare decisions such as whether to get pregnant and grow your family are heavily politicized,” said Jess Braverman, legal director at Gender Justice. “It is illegal sex discrimination in the state of Minnesota for a pharmacist to refuse to dispense emergency contraception without, at the very least, ensuring a patient can get their prescription without extra delay and cost to them.”
The verdict comes on the heels of a June decision by the supreme court to overturn the constitutional right to an abortion initially protected in the case of Roe v Wade.
Minnesota still allows abortions legally after the overturning of Roe, and permanently blocked “numerous medically unnecessary restrictions” in July.
Friday’s jury decision coincided with Indiana imposing a near-total ban on abortion, the first state to do so following the overturning of Roe.
Following the passage of that law, the pharmaceutical company Eli Lilly said it will be “forced to plan for more employment growth outside our home state”.
“We are concerned that this law will hinder Lilly’s – and Indiana’s – ability to attract diverse scientific, engineering and business talent from around the world,” it said.
Some traditionally conservative states such as West Virginia and South Carolina continue to debate how to change their laws on abortion.
Last week, in the nation’s first referendum on abortion since the supreme court decision, voters in Kansas rejected a change to their state constitution protecting abortion rights.
The surprise victory was celebrated as a testament to the desire for abortion rights nationwide, even in Republican-leaning states.