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. Again, I like Wossty’s still a Cat’s comeback with a Devil Dog
    uTube. How come that person is so obsessesed with devils?
    They are kind of ugly.

  2. bugdrown,
    The anti-contraception pill is sometimes called the “morning after pill.” Most of these methods require two pills in order to work. The first is taken as soon as possible after unprotected sex, then the second the next day. This two part pill keeps the embryo from implanting in the uterus. In effect, the woman is never actually pregnant, because the pregnancy was never consummated by implantation.

    Here is more information:

    http://ec.princeton.edu/pills/plan-b.html

  3. bugdrown, It’s more generally known as the morning-after pill. It prevents pregnancy. By refusing the pill Spinelli was giving her the opportunity for a pregnancy.

  4. I’ve never heard of an anti-contraception pill before. I would have thought that Spinelli would have been more than happy to give her a pill to ensure pregnancy.

  5. W=^..^

    OT but comments about your new avatar on another thread prompted me to take a closer look and I must say that is your best one yet. Brava. I’d love to have a nice poster or lithograph of that. It’d look snappy in my office.

  6. anon,

    ex: Honeywell does not like to hire permanent full time employees with benefits. So Honeywell contracts with Manpower, Inc (a real company) to find 10 engineers to help build 787 software. Those 10 engineers work W-2 for Manpower who provides them with a low salary and basically no benefits (medical care AFTER a year of employment, but contracts are for 6 months)…
    ————————————

    And this is a problem for pretty much all temps. Honeywell get workers without benefits, Manpower get workers without benefits, the workers get screwed, as do customers when the product goes beyond self destruction.

  7. raff, didn’t you get the memo? That is some of that Sharia law we hear is practiced in some of them furrin countries where all them Muslin furriners live. We don’t have none of that Sharia law here in the good ol’ U S of A.

    Oh wait……never mind.

  8. please stop building! I can’t stand to see 1 more squished turtle or toppled tree…..for another empty highrise!

  9. OS,
    Great story. It astounds me that people allow professional decisions by doctors to be abridged by non professionals. This better change soon or we will be controlled by someone else’s religious beliefs.

  10. no, grew up as an air force brat. i’m from everywhere. and things are not sunlighty and aboveboard here. i’m in volusia county, the county that at one point had about 1500 neg votes for al gore.

    the rule down here is if we build it, they will come.

  11. well, as a Northerner in Florida I find that on the surface things apper fairly ‘normal’….but underneath? not so much….and sorry to say I don’t think the ‘interactions’ here are all aboveboard and as sunlighty as they profess….are you a native Floridian Pete?

  12. as i resident of florida i want to point out that most people who live in florida are not from florida. most of the people i know and have met here are from the northeast or the midwest (ohio etc). it is much more common to hear boston or new york accents than southern drawls.

    so don’t send all your dingbat relatives down here and then complain the state is full of dingbats. interstate 95 runs both ways.

  13. Ironic timing for me. Just signed up a bit ago to protest at Rep Mike Fitzpatrick’s office when the nuns on the bus will be there protesting his tea party ideology: war on women votes (and votes against the poor) So the nuns on the bus, whose religion forbids birth control, I expect would have easily given her the MD prescribed pill but this, to me, christian terrorist refused. (seems more and more they want to bring Iraq and Iran, etc theocracy here (while of course bemoaning the horrors of islamic terrorism – if its your terror its bad, if its mine, its fine.)

  14. “Sorry if I misinterpreted your intent. You do bring up good points on the 1099 / W-2 status. I’m sure you are aware of the Microsoft Permatemp lawsuit, Vizcaino v. Microsoft. It does establish some rather interesting guidlines.”

    Sadly, I’m well aware of it. Microsoft’s bad behavior took all the fun out of being an independent contractor across software development. (And Honeywell / Manpower turned that into a church.)

  15. bettykath,

    In looking at principle-agent relations in Agency law, a key focus in determining liability is often degree of direct control over the agent and the scope of agency relationship. Minimal control and acts outside the scope or a vaguely defined scope can mitigate or eliminate liability for a principle.

  16. “I don’t believe the W-2 or 10-99 status of an individual acting on behalf of a gov’t agency creates an insulation from liability here.”

    I wasn’t trying to say anything of the sort. If anything just the opposite.

    That it’s common in my experience for contract employees (Spinelli) to have direct supervision from the original contracting company’s (in this case the Sheriff’s Department) employees.

    ex: Honeywell does not like to hire permanent full time employees with benefits. So Honeywell contracts with Manpower, Inc (a real company) to find 10 engineers to help build 787 software. Those 10 engineers work W-2 for Manpower who provides them with a low salary and basically no benefits (medical care AFTER a year of employment, but contracts are for 6 months)…

    The 10 engineers meet with Manpower once, or never at all, using email and phone to deal with all paperwork.

    They go to work at Honeywell facilities, where Honeywell employees give them direct supervision.

    Later, your 787 crashes when the triply redundant entertainment system backs up into the nav system radar plumbing. A shortage of Aviation Draino is to blame causing blue screens on the Windows ME embedded systems.

    But no one would say Manpower was liable and Honeywell was not.

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