AITKIN, Minn. — George Badeaux wasn't trying to prevent a patient from using emergency birth control, he told a central Minnesota judge Wednesday. He just didn't want to be part of the process.
"I wasn't seeking to interfere with what she wanted to do," the rural Minnesota pharmacist testified in a court case over his refusal to fill a contraceptive prescription. "I was asking to be excused."
Badeaux is on trial in Aitkin County District Court in a civil case brought against him and the Thrifty White drugstore in McGregor, Minn., where he was pharmacist in chief.
In January 2019, after a condom failed during intercourse, Andrea Anderson of McGregor went to the Thrifty White to get a prescription for Ella, a "morning-after" contraceptive that prevents a woman's ovaries from releasing eggs. Citing his beliefs, Badeaux refused to fill the prescription.
There is evidence that Ella may affect the lining of the uterus, preventing a fertilized egg from implanting, Badeaux testified. And that, he said, would be interfering with life.
"It's my belief, based on lots of thinking and reading, that this [fertilized egg] is a new life," Badeaux said. "If I do anything that prevents that egg from implanting in the uterus … the new life will cease to exist."
Earlier in the trial, the jury heard testimony from an expert who said the current medical consensus is that pregnancy doesn't begin until a fertilized egg implants in the uterine wall.
Anderson is suing under the Minnesota Human Rights Act, which prohibits sex discrimination, including discrimination based on pregnancy or childbirth. In a pretrial order, Aitkin County District Judge David Hermerding ruled that Badeaux's religious rights are not the issue at stake in the case.
The crux of the case under the law, he wrote, "is whether [Badeaux] deliberately misled, obfuscated and blocked Ms. Anderson's path to obtaining Ella."
But much of Badeaux's testimony Wednesday was devoted to explaining the religious beliefs that have led him to refuse to fill contraception prescriptions four times in his 40-year career.
"I'm a Christian," he said. "I believe in God. I love God. I try to live the way He would want me to live. That includes respecting every human being."
Anderson claims she suffered emotional distress from Badeaux's actions. To counter her claims, the attorney representing Thrifty White called Anderson's mental health therapist as a witness.
Attorney Ranelle Leier led therapist Karie Kroon through a detailed recitation of Kroon's case notes from her therapy sessions with Anderson.
"Did she bring up any feelings of shame or embarrassment" over the contraception denial? Leier asked several times.
"It's not in the notes," Kroon repeatedly replied.
Matt Hutera, owner of the Thrifty White, testified that in his 11 years owning the drugstore, Anderson's was the only prescription for Ella that ever came in.
Under cross-examination, Hutera admitted that there is no other drug whose delivery could be delayed by a conscientious objection by a pharmacist, potentially an important indication that Anderson's sex was the key factor in the refusal to fill her prescription.
Attorneys are set to give their closing arguments Thursday morning, and a verdict could be delivered by the end of the week.