A rape victim from Tampa, Fla. who was denied emergency contraception by a jail guard can proceed with a lawsuit against the Hillsborough County Sheriff and a jail guard, a federal judge ruled this week.
Michele Spinelli cited her religious beliefs as the reason for declining to give the victim her pill, according to a complaint obtained by Courthouse News.
The victim, identified only as R.W. in court documents, went to a rape crisis center in Tampa after she was attacked in 2007. A doctor gave R.W. two emergency contraception pills. She took one immediately and was told to take the other one in 12 hours. But, during the course of filing a report against her attacker, a police officer learned that R.W. was wanted for failure to pay restitution and failure to appear.
She was taken to the Hillsborough County Jail where her pill was confiscated and, the next morning, Spinelli wouldn't hand it over.
Raw Story points out that, back in March, Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich ruled R.W. could not sue Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee because he had no direct role in denying R.W. the morning after pill.
But, after R.W. submitted an amended complaint, Kovachevich changed her tune, noting that Gee had not spelled out a policy making it clear that Spinelli could not deny contraception pills.
Raw Story also notes that Florida's "Conscience Clause" prevents physicians and others people from being liable for refusing to give out contraception.
It's unclear what role that clause will play as R.W.'s lawsuit moves forward.
R.W. did not get pregnant after the incident.