In a lawsuit filed earlier this week, a rural Minnesota woman details how she was forced to drive to three different pharmacies for a birth-control prescription after being denied by a pharmacist based on their “beliefs”. The St. Paul-based non-profit advocacy group, Gender Justice, filed the suit on behalf of Andrea Anderson, a resident of McGregor, Minnesota.
All Anderson wanted to do was to have her doctor-issued prescription for Ella (an emergency contraceptive) filled at her local Thrifty White pharmacy in January 2019. What she got instead was a multi-hour ordeal that included her having to drive to two additional communities. All of this as a winter storm began to blanket that part of the state in snow and wind.
Anderson’s doctor wrote a prescription for Ella but she says the pharmacist at Thrifty White, the only pharmacy in McGregor, refused to fill it.
“He said, ‘I don’t feel comfortable, that goes against what I believe,’ and all a sudden it clicked and I said what,” Anderson explained.
Anderson says the pharmacist said another pharmacist may help her out, but with a snowstorm coming, it wasn’t certain. She said the CVS in Aitkin brushed her off as well.
Ultimately Walgreen’s gave her the drug.
“I had to take my 2 and a half-year-old out in the snowstorm, wind, blowing snow, freezing temperatures to drive to Brainerd just to get my prescription,” said Anderson.
To give readers a sense of geography, a round trip from McGregor to Aitkin to Brainerd is 160 miles. About three hours not including the stops. For a legal prescription.
While Thrifty White has not responded to the suit, CVS responded with a canned statement.:
CVS Pharmacy is committed to providing access to emergency contraception, whether it is at the pharmacy counter for patients who have a prescription for it, or in our store aisles where we have sold over-the-counter emergency contraception for several years.
We have policies and procedures in place to help ensure that customers seeking emergency contraception receive prompt service. We will review and investigate the allegations made in the complaint.
As noted in the Duluth News Tribune:
"When pharmacists refuse to fill a prescription due to their personal beliefs, refuse to follow the rules of the Pharmacy Board and have a backup referral ... they're violating those rights," [Gender Justice Executive Director Megan] Peterson said. "They're putting their personal beliefs ahead of someone's health care."
The story has not only garnered local and regional attention, but international, with the London-based The Sun repeating the story and video.
Access to safe and reliable birth control should not be dependent on the whims of someone in a white lab coat. As many others have noted on here — elections matter. Electing those who know what is at stake will hopefully prevent others from dealing with the same ordeal as Ms. Anderson will be a good start.