Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Deborah Brake & Joanna Grossman, Reproducing Inequality Under Title IX, 43 Harvard J. Law & Gender 171 (2020)
This article elaborates on and critiques the law’s separation of pregnancy, with rights grounded in sex equality under Title IX, from reproductive control, which the law treats as a matter of privacy, a species of liberty under the due process clause. While pregnancy is the subject of Title IX protection, reproductive control is parceled off into a separate legal framework grounded in privacy, rather than recognized as a matter that directly implicates educational equality. The law’s division between educational equality and liberty in two non-intersecting sets of legal rights has done no favors to the reproductive rights movement either. By giving a formal “right” to stay in school and the right to equal treatment with temporarily disabled students, Title IX may be strategically deployed by proponents of restricting abortion rights to minimize the educational consequences of involuntary motherhood. The hard realities of how pregnancy and parenting impact schooling are obscured.
The article explores the legal divide between pregnancy discrimination and reproductive rights in relation to education in three parts. Part I discusses the rights included in, and omitted from, Title IX relating to pregnancy and reproduction. Part II surveys the liberty-based reproductive rights framework for pregnancy prevention and termination and discusses its limits in protecting young women from the educational effects of unwanted pregnancy and motherhood. Part III concludes by discussing the implications of separating out pregnancy discrimination from the broader set of reproductive rights and elaborating on the harms that flow from the law’s failure to recognize the educational equality dimensions of the denial of reproductive rights.