Nurse practitioner says CVS fired her for objection to abortion drugs

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clarification

This story has been clarified and updated to include additional information on the medical use of Ella and Plan B as well as Catholic doctrine on abortion.

A former nurse practitioner who worked in Alexandria, Va., MinuteClinic is suing CVS Health, alleging the company fired her because she refused, on religious grounds, to give certain contraceptives or ‘abortion-causing’ drugs .

Lawyers for Paige Casey said in a lawsuit filed in Prince William County Circuit Court that CVS, which owns MinuteClinic, exempted the nurse for more than 2½ years from prescribing certain contraceptive drugs or devices that cause abortion. He specifically cited Plan B and Ella, which are commonly referred to as morning after pills. Casey was granted the accommodation after writing a request to the company stating his Catholic beliefs, according to the lawsuit.

That changed in August 2021, when the Rhode Island-based company announced that its employees could no longer avoid prescribing abortion-inducing drugs and other forms of birth control, according to the lawsuit.

“We are entering dangerous territory if companies can fire someone for exercising their religious beliefs,” said Denise Harle, senior counsel at Alliance Defending Freedom, a Christian and conservative legal group representing Casey in the case. “Tolerance goes both ways.”

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Plan B and she are the only two drugs mentioned by name in the lawsuit. They stop pregnancy by preventing ovulation or implantation of a fertilized egg, according to the Food and Drug Administration, which classifies both drugs as “emergency contraception” and says no drug can terminate ” an existing pregnancy”.

Catholic teaching however says that life begins at conception when a sperm cell fertilizes an egg cell. The VaticanThe 2010 Pontifical Academy for Human Life wrote that any drug that prevents a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterus “is really nothing but a chemically induced abortion.”

The trial specifies Casey’s interactions with her supervisors after CVS announced it would no longer let its employees avoid prescribing the drugs: Casey, who had worked primarily at a MinuteClinic in Alexandria since 2018, again requested an accommodation for his religious beliefs in december. In January and March, company officials reiterated that they would no longer respond to his request.

CVS fired Casey, effective April 1, after she repeatedly told her supervisors she could not prescribe “abortion-causing” drugs, according to the lawsuit.

Abortion is now prohibited in these states. See where the laws have changed.

CVS spokesman Mike DeAngelis said in a statement that employees can submit requests to the company based on their religious beliefs. But employees cannot be excused from helping with pregnancy prevention and safe sex practices, he said.

“We cannot grant exemptions from these essential MinuteClinic functions,” he said.

Virginia the law protects people from being compelled to participate in proceedings which lead to abortions when they oppose them on the basis of moral, ethical or religious convictions. The law does not explicitly mention hormonal contraceptives.

Abortion rights advocates fear access to birth control will be restricted

Harle said there is no case law indicating whether the distribution of these drugs is protected by the provision, although she said that judging by the way the provision is drafted, she believed Casey’s lawsuit did a “simple complaint”.

This week’s filing comes after the U.S. Supreme Court overruled in June Roe vs. Wade, the landmark 1973 case that made abortion a constitutional right in the United States. Since the June ruling, 15 states have banned or mostly banned abortion, and a ban in Indiana is set to go into effect this month. Some abortion rights advocates say lawmakers could also restrict people’s access to birth control.

Youngkin to seek 15-week abortion law in Virginia after Supreme Court ruling

In Virginia, Governor Glenn Youngkin (right) said in June he would seek a 15-week abortion ban. Neither abortion nor contraceptives are illegal in the state.

Casey planned to file the complaint before deer was overturned regardless of the court’s decision, Harle said.

“If anything, the reversal of deer slow this thing down just because [Alliance Defending Freedom] been so busy,” she said.

A spokeswoman for the Alliance Defending Freedom said Casey was unavailable to comment on the lawsuit.

Michelle Boorstein contributed to this report.

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