Saturday, September 22, 2018
News Roundup

Spurned nurse-midwife sues Tampa clinic over contraception duties

TAMPA — A nurse-midwife fresh out of school has filed a federal discrimination lawsuit against a Tampa health chain, alleging she was refused a job because of her religious opposition to prescribing birth control pills and abortion drugs.

Sara Hellwege, 27, of Atlanta sued Tampa Family Health Centers Inc. and its human resources director, Chad L. Lindsey, seeking damages of $400,000 and the return of federal money paid to the centers this year.

Her four attorneys work for the Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian legal group that opposes abortion.

Attached to the lawsuit is a May 13 email from Lindsey telling Hellwege she would not be interviewed because she is a member of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

In the complaint, filed last month in U.S. District Court in Tampa, the attorneys argue that federal and state law bars the centers from "penalizing applicants because they object to providing abortifacient contraceptives."

Hellwege objects to prescribing birth control pills because they may cause the demise of a human embryo, said Matt Bowman, senior legal counsel for the Alliance, who spoke Tuesday on her behalf.

Neither Lindsey nor the clinics' CEO, Charles Bottoms, responded to several inquiries from the Tampa Bay Times.

It's unclear how much public funding the health chain received this year, but tax forms filed last year reported nearly $5.8 million in 2012 government grants.

The nurse-midwife's complaint includes emails exchanged between her and Lindsey last spring as she prepared to graduate from Frontier Nursing University, a Kentucky-based program that offers distance learning.

Her first inquiry included her resume. She asked Lindsey to describe the "scope of practice" for certified nurse-midwives.

He responded with questions. When would she graduate? If hired, when could she begin?

Then, a week later, he wrote again, noting that her resume listed membership in the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, according to the email.

He informed her that the health centers are "Title X," meaning they get federal grant money to provide family planning services, including contraception. He asked if that would be reason for her to decline an interview.

She wrote, "Due to religious guidelines, I am able to counsel women regarding all forms of contraception, however, cannot Rx it unless pathology exists — however, have no issue with barrier methods and sterilization."

In Florida, advanced registered nurse practitioners, including certified nurse-midwives, may prescribe drugs, excluding controlled substances.

Hellwege asked Lindsey about other openings for nurse-midwives, suggesting that she might care for pregnant women or women in labor. His response, as evidenced by the email:

"Due to the fact we are a Title X organization and you are a member of AAPLOG, we would be unable to move forward in the interviewing process."

Lindsey's online profile at LinkedIn states that he has been with the company since 2011 and that he is a former offensive coordinator for the New York Dragons Arena Football League team.

A website for Tampa Family Health Centers states that there are 13 offices in Hillsborough County, focusing on internal medicine, family practice, pediatric care, dentistry, OB/GYN and pharmaceutical services.

Bowman said the Alliance previously filed three similar cases in other states, all with what he considered positive outcomes. Two targets were medical and nursing programs; the third a hospital.

He said Hellwege (pronounced hell-VAY-guh) still wants to work for the Tampa clinics. The lawsuit seeks an injunction requiring the company to fairly consider her application.

His organization also filed complaints with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Department of Health and Human Services.

"A lot of women want a pro-life midwife," he said, "and if it's illegal or if the industry prohibits pro-life midwives, a lot of women will be deprived of the right to choose a health care provider who shares their values."

Times news researcher John Martin contributed to this report. Contact Patty Ryan at [email protected] or (813) 226-3382.

Comments
Legendary Tampa criminal defense attorney Barry Cohen dies at 79

Legendary Tampa criminal defense attorney Barry Cohen dies at 79

TAMPA — The accused and the wronged beat a path to Barry Cohen’s door.The tenacious, canny criminal defense attorney took on pharmaceutical giants and law enforcement agencies. When judges and attorneys needed representation, they often reached out t...
Updated: 14 minutes ago
For starters: Rays at Blue Jays, with Meadows in the lineup

For starters: Rays at Blue Jays, with Meadows in the lineup

After a crushing defeat Thursday and Friday's bounceback win, the Rays take on the Blue Jays again today, first pitch 4:07.OF Austin Meadows, who made an impressive showing coming off the bench on Friday gets his first start today in rightfield. Mead...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Football: Tampa Bay Tech 28, Hillsborough 27

Football: Tampa Bay Tech 28, Hillsborough 27

TAMPA — The decision was made as soon as Hillsborough got the ball back. Trailing by a touchdown with just over four minutes remaining against Tampa Bay Tech, the Terriers had the ball on their own 6-yard line.They hadn't been able to move the ...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Football: Clearwater 34, Mitchell 7

Football: Clearwater 34, Mitchell 7

TRINITY — What at first looked like a defensive stalemate between Clearwater and Mitchell quickly turned into a rout.Clearwater had revenge on its mind Friday night after a 45-28 loss to Mitchell last year during the the regular season. The Tor...
Updated: 2 hours ago
Pinellas Park man killed in rollover crash near Feather Sound

Pinellas Park man killed in rollover crash near Feather Sound

ST. PETERSBURG — A 47-year-old Pinellas Park man died Friday night after his pickup truck veered into oncoming traffic, rolled over and ejected him, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.Troopers said the crash took place at 7:15 p.m. at Feather So...
Updated: 3 hours ago
USF’s Kitija Laksa begins play in FIBA Women’s World Cup

USF’s Kitija Laksa begins play in FIBA Women’s World Cup

Before resuming her assault on USF's record books, Kitija Laksa will try to make history with her homeland.A native of Riga, Latvia, Laksa begins play with her native country this morning in the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup in Spain.Latvia is ma...
Updated: 7 hours ago
Football: Largo 35, Countryside 0

Football: Largo 35, Countryside 0

LARGO — The offense was relentless and merciless Friday night, but that has been the case a lot recently. Largo is scoring points in bunches and getting contributions from everyone. Add in a defense that has been smothering, as well as a special team...
Published: 09/22/18
How do you explain active shooters to a first-grader? For educators, school safety is a ‘work in progress.’

How do you explain active shooters to a first-grader? For educators, school safety is a ‘work in progress.’

Active assailant. Run-hide-fight. Barricade the classroom. The language of preventing a shooting like the one this year at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is often filled with terms that can stir up fear in students, often out of necessity.But f...
Published: 09/22/18
Joe and Son's Olive Oils, a legacy Ybor business, finds new roots in Carrollwood

Joe and Son's Olive Oils, a legacy Ybor business, finds new roots in Carrollwood

Andrea Gebbia grew up in Carrollwood, and now she is bringing the family business to the neighborhood of her youth.In late fall, Joe and Son’s Olive Oils is slated to open a second location."I feel so blessed having the ability to grow my...
Updated: 11 minutes ago

Two acclaimed authors to speak about water at USF St. Petersburg

Pulitzer Prize winner and University of Florida professor Jack Davis thinks people need to humble themselves more toward water."The water doesn’t belong to us, we belong to the water," he said. "Without water, humanity would not exist, life would not...
Updated: 1 hour ago