ST. PAUL — A St. Paul-based advocacy organization is suing two pharmacies and a pharmacist on behalf of a Minnesota woman who says she was denied a prescribed emergency contraceptive.

According to a Tuesday, Dec. 10, news release, Gender Justice, a nonprofit legal and policy advocacy organization based in St. Paul, has filed a lawsuit against Thrifty White Pharmacy, its McGregor, Minn.-based pharmacist George Badeaux, as well as CVS pharmacy. The lawsuit is filed on behalf of Andrea Anderson, of McGregor, who claims Badeaux for personal and religious reasons declined to fill her prescription for the emergency contraceptive Ella in January, and did not offer her an alternative pharmacist.

In a Tuesday call with media, Gender Justice Executive Director Megan Peterson said that the lawsuit is about "ensuring that every Minnesotan has the right and the ability to decide when and how they start or grow their families."

"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," Peterson said. "They're putting their personal beliefs ahead of someone's health care."

Speaking on Tuesday's media call, Anderson said after Badeaux refused to fill her prescription, she attempted to fill it at the nearby CVS pharmacy in Aitkin, Minn. She said the unnamed CVS pharmacist did not have Ella available, and offered to call a Walgreens in Brainerd, Minn. Anderson claims the CVS pharmacist said Walgreens did not have Ella available, but when Anderson herself called later, they indeed did. She drove over 50 miles from McGregor to Brainerd to fill her prescription.

Gender Justice argues in its complaint, filed in Aitkin County District Court in Minnesota's Ninth Judicial District, that the pharmacists and pharmacies illegally discriminated against Anderson based on her sex, and violated the Minnesota Human Rights Act by denying her pregnancy-related health care.

Thrifty White is the only pharmacy located in the small, rural town of McGregor. Anderson said she "can't help but wonder" about past or future women who are denied their emergency contraceptive prescriptions.

"What if these women don't realize that the pharmacist was wrong?" she said. "What if they accept that they are unable to get their prescription filled? What if they don't have the means or ability to drive to another town to get their prescriptions upon refusal?"