A rape victim who was arrested after reporting her attack to the Tampa police can sue the prison employee who refused to allow her access to a contraception pill due to religious beliefs, a federal court has ruled.
The victim, who is only identified as R.W. in court records, visited Tampa’s Rape Crisis Center on Jan. 27, 2007 where a “rape kit” procedure was performed and she was given two contraception pills. The doctor instructed her to take one pill immediately and the second one 12 hours later.
R.W. then reported her rape to Tampa police and was arrested after it was discovered she was wanted for failure to appear and failure to pay restitution on a previous charge.
When R.W. requested her second contraception pill the next morning, Hillsborough County Jail employee Michele Spinelli refused on religious grounds.
“Spinelli told the Plaintiff that she would not give R.W. the pill because it was against Spinelli’s religious beliefs,” a complaint (PDF) filed in United States District Court Tampa Division states.
The victim did not get pregnant, but moved forward with a suit against Spinelli and Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee for violating her right to privacy, gender discrimination and violating her right to equal protection under the the 14th Amendment.
In March, U.S. District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich ruled that a suit against Spinelli could proceed but granted a motion to dismiss the complaint against Sheriff David Gee.