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Catholic Nurse Sues CVS After Being Fired for Not Prescribing Contraceptives

A packet of birth control pills. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first over-the-counter hormonal contraceptive July 13, 2023. (Photo: OSV News/Gabriela Sanda, Pixabay)

WASHINGTON — Gunna Kristofersdottir, a Catholic nurse practitioner in Florida who was fired by CVS Health for refusing to prescribe contraceptives because of her religious beliefs, has filed a federal lawsuit against her former employer.

Kristofersdottir, who was employed by a CVS MinuteClinic in Tequesta, Florida, had been granted a religious accommodation from prescribing contraception for several years before the company changed its policy three years ago. In 2021, a CVS official announced that the drugstore chain was revoking the religious accommodations that had allowed providers not to prescribe pregnancy-prevention drugs.

Now she joins three other former CVS workers, including another Catholic, who have sued the company for religious discrimination after they were fired for refusing to fill contraceptive prescriptions. 

Kristofersdottir is being represented by the Texas-based religious freedom law firm, First Liberty Institute. The 21-page complaint the law firm filed in late January said CVS gave Kristofersdottir two weeks to agree she would “prescribe all contraceptives available at CVS, or she would be terminated.” The company then revoked her religious accommodation, “refusing to consider her particular circumstances or even discuss possible alternative accommodations.”

Kristofersdottir’s lawyers said CVS could have worked with her accommodation by transferring her to another position. Instead, their “policy of preemptively denying all such requests regardless of individual circumstances is unlawful and has a disparate impact on its employees.”

The lawsuit said the company’s refusal to grant a religious exemption in this case was religion-based discrimination and a violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act that protects employees and job applicants from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, and national origin.

It also noted that Kristofersdottir, as a Catholic, believes “the procreative potential of intercourse may not be subverted by device or procedure,” quoting the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

It added that “because of her religious beliefs,” Kristofersdottir cannot participate “in any way in facilitating artificial contraceptives, including hormonal contraceptives or drugs that could prevent the implantation of an embryo or otherwise cause an abortion.”

Also referring to the catechism, it said, she believes that “facilitating such conduct would be intrinsically evil.”

In 1968, St. Paul VI’s encyclical “Humanae Vitae,” reaffirmed Church teaching against contraception.

In early January, First Liberty also filed suit against CVS on behalf of Texas resident J. Robyn Strader who said that her Baptist faith prevents her from prescribing contraceptive and abortion-inducing drugs.

She said that for several years, CVS granted her a religious accommodation to forgo having to prescribe the drugs at the CVS MinuteClinic where she worked. When customers needed the prescriptions, she referred them to a colleague or another CVS MinuteClinic, as Kristofersdottir did.

Since CVS enacted its new policy, two other nurse practitioners sued the company, alleging religious discrimination. In September 2022, Paige Casey, a Catholic from Virginia, sued after she was fired for refusing to prescribe contraceptives. One month later, Suzanne Schuler, a member of the Church of the Nazarene in Kansas, similarly sued CVS after her religious accommodation was revoked. Both Casey and Schuler reached settlements with CVS last year.

Stephanie Taub, senior counsel at First Liberty Institute, said in a statement that nurse practitioners should be “able to serve their patients in a way that doesn’t require them to violate their religious beliefs.”