Friday, March 16, 2012

Rape Victim Denied Anti-Conception Pill By Religious Jail Guard States Claim

In R.W. v. Spinelli, (MD FL, March 6, 2012), a Florida federal district court held, in a case involving rather unusual facts, that a rape victim can maintain a suit for violation of her privacy and equal protection rights against a jail employee.  Plaintiff was prescribed anti-conception pills at a rape crisis center where she took one and was instructed to take the second 12 hours later.  While police, investigating the rape, accompanied the victim back to the crime scene, they discovered that there was an outstanding arrest warrant against her. They arrested her, and when she was taken into custody the second pill she had with her was confiscated.  The next morning when she asked defendant Spinelli, the jail worker in charge of decisions involving her care, for the pill, Spinelli refused saying it was against her (Spinelli's) religious beliefs to administer it. Ultimately, just prior to her release the next day, plaintiff was permitted to take the second pill, and she did not become pregnant.

The court, while permitting plaintiff to move ahead, warned that at most she would receive only nominal damages of $1. It also expressed some question about whether plaintiff's equal protection allegations were well-founded. She alleged that Spinelli would have given the same contraceptive to male inmates undergoing sex change. The court dismissed plaintiff's claims against the sheriff in his official capacity. Courthouse News reports on the decision.