Nurse practitioner says CVS fired her for refusing to give abortion drugs

A former nurse practitioner who worked at a MinuteClinic in Virginia is suing CVS Health, alleging the company fired her because she refused to give certain contraceptives or abortive medications, in accordance with her religious beliefs.

Paige Casey’s attorneys said in a lawsuit filed in county court that CVS, owner of MinuteClinic, exempted the nurse for more than two and a half years from prescribing certain contraceptives or abortion-inducing devices. He specifically cited Plan B and Ella, which are commonly referred to as morning after pills. Casey was granted the accommodation after writing an application to the company based on her Catholic beliefs, according to the lawsuit.

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That changed in August 2021, when the Rhode Island-based company announced that its employees could no longer avoid prescribing abortion 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.”

The lawsuit outlines Casey’s interactions with his 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, Va., since 2018, again asked an accommodation for their 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 couldn’t prescribe abortive drugs.

Mike DeAngelis, a spokesperson for CVS, 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 to these essential MinuteClinic functions,” he said.

Virginia law protects people from being compelled to participate in procedures that result in abortions based on moral, ethical, and religious beliefs. The law does not explicitly mention hormonal contraceptives.

Harle said there was no case law indicating whether the distribution of abortion-inducing drugs is protected by the provision, although she said she believed Casey’s lawsuit made a “simple claim” , based on how the provision is drafted.

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

In Virginia, Gov. Glenn Youngkin, a Republican, said in June he would seek a 15-week abortion ban. Neither abortion nor contraceptives are illegal in Virginia.

Casey planned to file a lawsuit before Roe was overturned regardless of the court’s decision, Harle said.

“If anything, Roe’s overthrow slowed this case down simply 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.

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