Minnesota Pharmacist Takes Bold Stand

Minnesota Pharmacist Takes Bold Stand

When George Badeaux was a little boy growing up in Brainerd, Minnesota, his mom would call a taxi every Sunday morning, and George would climb into the taxi and head to church. He would go to Sunday school, then he would meet up with a family friend and go home with her until his mom came to pick him up.

“I believe that planted the seed of believing that God exists and that He is good,” George said. 

George came to know God personally when he received Jesus as Savior at age 20, and he has walked in the goodness of God all the 45 years since. The last few have included a legal battle. 

In January 2019, George was working as head pharmacist at Thrifty White Pharmacy in McGregor, Minnesota, when in the middle of his shift, he noticed a prescription for a drug called Ella. 

When he looked up the FDA label, he found that it was a type of emergency contraception. Upon further investigation, he saw that the drug works by either delaying or preventing the release of an egg, or by inhibiting a fertilized egg’s implantation into the uterus.

It was that second method that concerned him. If the drug inhibited the implantation of a fertilized egg, that essentially terminated a life, in his view—a life that Jesus died to save. 

“I couldn’t be a part of that,” George says, “because as part of my religious faith, I believed that when an egg is fertilized and a brand-new DNA is formed, a new human being is formed. And since this, and every human being, has great value in the eyes of God, this life—and every human life—should be protected.” 

Like most pharmacies, Thrifty White didn’t keep the drug in stock. George could get it by the next day, when a second pharmacist was also scheduled to be on duty, and that pharmacist was not opposed to dispensing abortion-related drugs. That was the arrangement George made with the pharmacy owner. If his faith would not allow him to sell a particular drug, he would refer the prescription to the second pharmacist, and if that proved impossible, he would refer the customer to a pharmacy that he knew would be willing and able to fill it.

But the local weather forecast added another layer to this case. Meteorologists were calling for a major snow storm, so the second pharmacist, and even George, might not be able to make it to work the next day. Both lived an hour away.

Not wanting to stand in the way of the woman getting her medication, George called her to explain the predicament. He told her his faith wouldn’t allow him to fill the prescription, but he was happy to refer it to the second pharmacist, provided that pharmacist could make it to work the next day. Also, if she would prefer to take the prescription elsewhere, he was happy to transfer it to a pharmacy of her choice.

The woman, Andrea Anderson, became angry, shouted an expletive at him and hung up. Later that day, George received a request to transfer the prescription to a different pharmacy, and he did so right away. Anderson got her prescription filled well within the five-day range that her doctor’s office had recommended in order for the drug to be effective. The next day, she called back  and asked for George’s name and vowed that she was going to “do something about this.” 

George’s attorneys at Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) said he was within his rights to follow his conscience.

“According to guidance from the Minnesota Board of Pharmacy, pharmacists have the right to personally object to dispensing ‘emergency contraception,’” ADF said in a press release. “Pharmacists who do object should have ‘alternatives … immediately available’ so that customers may have ‘the prescription filled by another staff person at the pharmacy or by another pharmacy.’” 

As it turned out, the weather the next day wasn’t as bad as predicted, and both George and the second pharmacist were at work during normal hours. 

Ten months later, Anderson sued George and Thrifty White, saying George discriminated against her on the basis of her sex, under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA). After a five-day trial in July 2022, a jury ruled in George’s favor.

Anderson appealed the case to the Minnesota Court of Appeals, which finally heard it on Dec. 21 of last year. George’s attorneys argued that federal and state law would not classify George’s actions as pregnancy discrimination.

The MHRA is focused on motives, not consequences, George’s attorney, Rory Gray, told the three-judge panel. “Mr. Badeaux [would have] had to have a discriminatory motive. The jury found that he did not. And that’s backed up by the statute, which does not impact so much what is done as to why it’s done.”

Health care professionals should not be targeted for their religious beliefs, George said in a statement. “As a licensed pharmacist, I’ve helped patients receive the treatment they seek for over 30 years.” 

Conscience protections have long been a hallmark of American law. “Even in 1973 when the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade and a companion case called Doe v. Bolton, the court recognized that health care professionals shouldn’t be forced to perform abortions, or be involved in abortions, if it violates their convictions,” Gray said. “So this has never been a thing that’s been controversial until now.”

A decision is expected in the case by the end of this month. Meanwhile, George, at 65, is now working at a pharmacy closer to his home—and holding onto his faith. 

“My life’s motto is ‘Trust God,’ he says. “And that’s what I’ve done. I’ve trusted Him in this. It was not an easy decision to decline to dispense the morning-after pill. I knew it had potential implications, but I also believed it was the right thing to do, and I trusted that God honors those who trust Him.”  ©2024 BGEA 

Photo: Judy Griesedieck / Genesis photos / ©2024 BGEA

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