News Religion

“Conscience Clause” Gone AMOK — Rape Victim Denied Morning After Pill By Prison Guard

Robin Marty

It's bad enough that a victim of sexual assault was jailed for an outstanding warrant when she went to report her rape. But being denied emergency contraception by her guard? No wonder she's suing.

We’ve watched the definition of “conscience clause” be expanded to include everyone from nurses and data entry workers at hospitals to bus drivers refusing to drop off patients at clinics. But now a prison guard refused to allow a rape victim to take the second dose of emergency contraception (which prevents fertilization) claiming it was “against her beliefs.” That’s a new one.

Via Addicting Info:

A Tampa woman whom we only know as R.W., was raped. She was treated by the rape crisis center, who gave her two emergency contraception pills, one to be taken immediately and one to be taken 12 hours later. When she reported the rape to the police, they uncovered an arrest warrant on R.W. for failure to pay restitution and failure to appear. After she was arrested, a Hillsborough County guard confiscated her second pill, claiming it was against her religious beliefs.

But this is exactly what happens when “conscience” is allowed to trump a woman’s rights to avoid pregnancy. R.W. is suing the sheriff’s office, and as well she should. This isn’t just about women denied access when jailed (Although that in itself is problematic — should a woman fear reporting a crime because she may be arrested? Not to mention the fact that women who are sexually assaulted while in jail may also be at the whim of a guard or someone in authorityin obtaining access to emergency contraception to prevent pregnancy).

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No, this case also brings to light how those who are “in charge” when it comes to dispensing are able to inflict their own moral beliefs onto someone else. In states like Kansas, which seek to expand conscience clauses well beyond health workers, the putative “rights” if those who wield power are being allowed to trump those of the patient in need.

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