Update: On March 18, 2024, the Minnesota Court of Appeals determined that Ms. Anderson was entitled to judgment as a matter of law that the pharmacist had engaged in business discrimination based on sex and to a new trial as to whether the pharmacy violated the state’s public-accommodations protections against sex discrimination, and whether the pharmacist aided and abetted that violation. Crucially, the Court held that a refusal to dispense emergency contraception because it may interfere with a pregnancy is sex discrimination.

On Friday July 7, NWLC filed an amicus brief in the Minnesota Court of Appeals in the case Anderson v. Thrifty White, with the support of our local counsel Ava Cavaco at Nigh Goldenberg. The brief was filed in support of Andrea Anderson, who was denied emergency contraception from her local pharmacy. The pharmacy’s policy allowed an individual pharmacist to refuse to fill her prescription and failed to ensure that she could still obtain her prescription from another employee or another pharmacy. Ms. Anderson sued under the Minnesota Human Rights Act (MHRA), which prohibits discrimination based on sex, including pregnancy, in public accommodations. Contraception, including emergency contraception, is an essential aspect of health care that is uniquely needed by people capable of pregnancy. To deny a patient’s access to sex-specific prescriptions is to discriminate on the basis of sex.

After a jury trial, during which Ms. Anderson was represented by Gender Justice, the jury issued a damages award but found that neither the pharmacy nor its pharmacist should be found liable for discrimination. Our brief argues that Ms. Anderson should have prevailed because the pharmacy’s policy singled out a sex-specific medication and was therefore facially discriminatory. Our brief also highlights the specific, serious harms caused by a refusal to fill an emergency contraception prescription, particularly for those who already experience systemic discrimination in health care.