ACLU Warns VMI that New Pregnancy Policy Could Violate Law

Affiliate: ACLU of Virginia
July 3, 2001 12:00 am

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RICHMOND, VA – The American Civil Liberties Union of Virginia and the ACLU’s Women’s Right’s Project today sent a letter to the Virginia Military Institute’s Board of Visitors asking the school to rethink a proposed policy that makes pregnancy grounds for dismissal from the academy. The letter also warns VMI that implementation of a such a policy may result in legal action and/ or withdrawal of federal funds.

“Of course the policy appears to be fair because VMI has decided to exclude both female and male cadets,” said Kent Willis, Executive Director of the ACLU of Virginia. “Yet, we all know who this policy is really going to affect – women. Males do not exhibit any signs once they impregnate a woman, whereas with female cadets it is clearly evident. Unless VMI plans to track the sexual partners of its cadets, the fair implementation of this policy is not possible.”

The formerly all male, Virginia Military Institute plans to institute a policy that calls for the dismissal of any female cadet who becomes pregnant or male cadet who impregnates a woman, on or off campus. The VMI’s policy is believed to be in response to a female cadet who is pregnant. The policy however will not be instituted retroactively.

The ACLU’s primary concerns with VMI’s proposed policy is that it is discriminatory towards its female cadets, and it violates the federal constitution’s guarantees of equal protection and privacy. Under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, it is illegal for a school accepting federal funds to discriminate against a student based on pregnancy or parental status.

“This policy shows that although VMI has admitted women to its program, the battle for women to be fully accepted at the school and active in all aspects of the program is not over,” said Lenora Lapidus, Director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project.

In 1996, the Supreme Court ruled that VMI’s 157-year-old-policy of excluding women was unconstitutional. The ACLU filed a friend-of-the-court brief in the case, contending that the separate program violated the equal protection guarantee of the Fourteenth Amendment, a position that the Court endorsed.

The ACLU’s letter to VMI can be found at:

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