Tampa Rape Victim Sues After Jailer Refused Emergency Contraception Pill Due To Religious Beliefs

A federal judge has ruled that a Tampa rape victim known as R.W. can sue the Hillsborough County Sheriff after a jail guard refused to give her an emergency contraception pill because it was against her religious beliefs. Jail employee Michele Spinelli explained to R.W. that she would not give her the pill approved by a doctor because she viewed them to be a sin.


R.W.says she was raped on Jan. 27, 2007 and went to Tampa’s Rape Crisis Center where a doctor gave R.W. gave two anti-contraception pills. She took one as instructed and was supposed to take the other 12 hours later. However, a Tampa police officer discovered that she had a warrant out for her arrest and took her into custody. When the time came to take the second pill, Spinelli refused.
R.W. did not get pregnant but sued for the violation of her right to privacy and denial of equal protection.
U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich found the amended complaint to be sufficient to go to trial. In doing so, she found that “The single action of a final policy-maker can represent official government policy, even when the action is not meant to control later decisions.” The Sheriff allowed Spinelli to work at the jail without supervision or direction. Taking the allegations as true for the purposes of the motion, the court ruled that the lawsuit could proceed.

If true, the allegations could not be more disturbing. We have seen a debate over pharmacies and religious organizations opposed to supplying contraceptives. However, this is a state employee with a woman who is in custody. Had she given birth, it would have created a bizarre “wrongful birth” case where the defendant is the state. Even without a birth, if these allegations are true, this woman was put through a harrowing experience.

Source: Courthouse

94 thoughts on “Tampa Rape Victim Sues After Jailer Refused Emergency Contraception Pill Due To Religious Beliefs

  1. Subnx wrote:”Setting aside for the moment the culpability or non culpability of the jailer ”
    ok so we have set aside the biological issue, you told us to do that a while back, and now the culpability issue. Gee everytime someone comes up with a response oppositional to your position, one which you will hild onto no matter how overwhelmingly wrong it is, you say well throwout that part of the argument. Okay then there is nothing left: there was no need for the jailer to give her anything for something that was not an issue.
    Point. Game. Over.

  2. Malisha
    1, July 5, 2012 at 11:57 am
    A child psychiatrist (now deceased) named Richard Gardner once put forward the theory that simply ACCUSING a man of having molested a child was enough to make the behavior stop, if it even happened in the first place.
    ———————————–
    No theory of human behavior, even if correct, is correct 100% of the time.
    In a situation outlined such as this, it MAY be enough to accuse someone of actual molestation, during the actual time frame of the crime, and have that be enough impetus to stop the molestation….but that is not a given and when someone has demonstrated an inability to maintain behavior against another human being, it is also risky, likely even dangerous to do so. I would forward the theory that accusing someone of molesting children , and it not being true fact, could potentially cause even more damage to every person involved. Accusations are venal ugly things when not rooted in fact but that does not stop venal ugly people from doing it.

  3. ” If she just wanted to “do good” she would have either filed an injunction action or sued the jailer and left the taxpayers alone. I don’t think that the actions of the jailer were somethng that was dictated by the county. “~Subnx
    ————————–
    I think this case is very important right now. There is a push to privatize and profitize the prison system, to Industrialize it. Already in healthcare we saw employees quite often reluctant to admit to mistakes because the legal community had become so aggressive as opposed to assertive in prosecuting and with profits rather than quality (outcomes) as king the likelihood of any response other than a career wrecked became challenged. That environment made healthcare something more akin to hellcare and the kind of positive institutional progress that can occur when the environment is not in a state of fear was squelched. Prisons are not there to heal and help, can you imagine how ugly they could become without clear oversight and set boundaries and staff empowered to know what the limits of their actions can be?

  4. I would forward the theory that accusing someone of molesting children , and it not being true fact, could potentially cause even more damage to every person involved.
    and, like with the McMartin case, have an even larger audience of those hurt by it. McMartin helped to go backward: children having a harder time being believed as in the older days.

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