CVS Nurse Sues Over Firing After Refusal to Dispense Contraceptives
ALEXANDRIA, Va. — A former northern Virginia MinuteClinic nurse practitioner is suing CVS Health after she claims she was fired for refusing to dispense contraceptives for religious reasons.
The lawsuit says Paige Casey avoided giving out the contraceptives for 2 1/2 years at an Alexandria CVS store after she asked her employer for an exemption based on her Catholic beliefs.
The contraceptives included Plan B and Ella, commonly called morning-after pills. They can prevent pregnancies if administered immediately after contraception.
Casey’s exemption ended in August 2021 after a CVS Health policy change. The company told employees they no longer could avoid dispensing contraceptives or other birth control to authorized patients who requested them.
When Casey continued to refuse to give out the drugs and devices, CVS Health fired her in April, prompting her to sue in Prince William County Circuit Court. She seeks $100,000 in damages and back pay.
The lawsuit creates a legal dilemma under Virginia law. State law says employers cannot require employees who object on moral or religious grounds from participating in procedures that result in abortions.
The Food and Drug Administration classifies Plan B and Ella as contraceptives because they stop pregnancies by preventing a fertilized egg from being implanted into the uterus, where growth of a fetus occurs. As a result, the drugs are not classified as inducing abortions.
However, the Catholic Church teaches that life begins at conception, even before the egg reaches the uterus. Therefore any drug or intervention that prevents the pregnancy from continuing is an abortion.
Virginia law does not mention hormonal contraceptives like Plan B and Ella.
CVS Health officials said they plan to continue their policy of requiring employees to dispense contraceptives.
“It is not possible … to grant an accommodation that exempts an employee from performing the essential functions of their job,” a company spokesman said in a statement. “We cannot grant exemptions from these essential MinuteClinic functions.”
Casey’s attorneys from the conservative advocacy group Alliance Defending Freedom say the policy is the same as an employer firing workers for following their religious beliefs.
Tom can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at @tramstack.