A federal court ruled this week that a Florida woman could sue her local Sheriff's department because, after being raped, the woman was denied the second dosage of the morning after pill by a prison guard who objected to it. The woman, identified only as R.W., sought help at a clinic after being raped and was prescribed the pill as a precaution. When the police investigated the rape, they discovered an unrelated warrant for R.W.'s arrest and took her into custody. R.W. was then denied the second pill by a prison guard, Michele Spinelli, who said the pill violated her religious beliefs. Florida has a religious conscience clause, which allows health providers to deny certain treatments or procedures if they have moral objections.
US District Judge Elizabeth Kovachevich had ruled in March that the sheriff was improperly named as a defendant, but yesterday, in response to a revised complaint, she ruled that the Sheriff, David Gee, could be sued. She wrote, "Gee, as the representative of the municipality, promulgated no policy on anticonceptive medication and provided no guidance or supervision to Spinelli on the matter. Given that some entity must set policy for the government in each situation, plaintiff has rendered plausible the claim that Spinelli was designated the final policy-maker with respect to her decision to withhold anti-conceptive medication for religious reasons."
Besides Florida, Maine and Tennessee also have refusal measures. Most recently, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback signed a state law in May establishing a conscience clause in the state. This law specifically allows pharmacists to deny medication that they object to. Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, and South Dakota also have laws that apply to pharmacists.
Media Resources: Huffington Post 6/27/12; Raw Story 6/26/12; Courthouse News Service 6/25/12; Feminist Daily Newswire 5/15/12
8/28/2015 Alaska Court Protects Abortion Access for Low-Income Women - The Alaska Superior Court struck down a state law yesterday that would have severely limited abortion access for low-income women in Alaska.
The state's Superior Court also struck down a Department of Health and Social Services regulation that placed narrow specifications on Medicaid coverage for abortions, requiring that Medicaid-funded abortions be determined by a physician to be "medically necessary." Last year, the Center for Reproductive Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Planned Parenthood sued on behalf of the Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest, claiming that the narrow definition of "medically necessary" arbitrarily established conditions designed to restrict the ability of low-income women to access abortion services.
The law was temporarily blocked last July by an Alaskan state court judge.
Superior Court Judge John Suddock ordered yesterday that the state be blocked from implementing this regulation, ruling that it placed an undue burden on low-income women seeking abortion services in Alaska.
"By providing health care to all poor Alaskans except women who need abortions, the challenged regulation violates the state constitutional guarantee of 'equal rights, opportunities, and protection under the law'," the ruling read.
"We applaud the superior court for striing down these cruel restrictions on women's health and rights that violate the Alaska Constitution," said Chris Charbonneau, CEO of Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. . . .
8/26/2015 Saudi Women Prepare to Vote for the First Time - The fight for gender equality is making slow but notable progress in Saudi Arabia, where women will be allowed to vote for the first time in upcoming December elections.
This shift in Saudi law came in 2011, when a royal decree announced that women would be allowed to vote and run in local elections beginning in December of 2015. . . .