After being raped, a Tampa woman was denied emergency contraception by a jail employee. She took the first pill prescribed by the rape crisis center and then called police to report the crime. But Hillsborough County arrested this traumatized rape victim over a previous minor violation and then confiscated her second emergency pill.
The woman later filed a lawsuit, claiming that employee Michele Spinelli refused to dispense her remaining pill the next morning because it was “against her religious beliefs.”
Apparently the “conscience clause” is being used as an excuse by anyone who feels they have a right to put their beliefs ahead of another’s right to choose - or even a doctor’s right to prescribe.
Tell Hillsborough County Sheriff’s department to stop withholding contraceptive medication.
We, the undersigned, expect those enforcing the law to respect the law, including the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantee of equal protection under the law.
Aside from that, to throw a woman in jail who has just been traumatized by rape, because of minor offenses, is cruel and certainly contributed to her experiencing further and unnecessary trauma.
A police officer in Rhode Island was just given a suspended sentence after being convicted of felonious assault with a deadly weapon for kicking a handcuffed woman in the head hard enough to knock her down. So certainly a woman traumatized by rape could be given at least as much leniency for simply failing to show and pay a fine.
As all law enforcement officers have an obligation to protect detainees who have no way of protecting themselves, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s department has an obligation to make sure its prisoners get their prescribed medication.
If the department has not yet fired Spinelli, it should. We request that you employee only law-abiding officers in your department from now on and stop withholding prescribed medication from detainees.
Thank you for your time.
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