Since 1972, Title IX has provided protection for discrimination against pregnant individuals. It states that sex discrimination based on “pregnancy, childbirth, termination of pregnancy, or recovery therefrom” is prohibited.
Current Title IX law says that pregnant students cannot be dismissed from class or any college-related program or activity, nor denied medical leave requested by a physician. However, it provides little detail on what defines this discrimination, how to avoid it, and specific actions schools can take to support pregnant people on campus.
The Biden administration’s proposed regulations attempt to further define pregnancy and pregnancy-related accommodations. As institutions prepare for the release of finalized regulations in May 2023, Title IX Coordinators should inspect their own practices in preparation for these changes.
So what can preventing pregnancy discrimination actually look like? Here are two major areas to explore in preparing to update your policies and procedures:
More Time Off for Abortions, Miscarriages, and Recovery
As abortion rights become increasingly controlled in the United States, schools should expect a growing population of pregnant and parenting individuals. These numbers will especially increase in states with the most restrictive abortion laws.
With college-aged individuals among the most likely to seek abortion, administrators located in these states should also anticipate students needing more time to travel out-of-state for the procedure.
Since Title IX prohibits discrimination based on a student’s choice to get an abortion, it suggests that students should not face criticism for terminating a pregnancy, despite the state they live in. Institutions must determine how to define, prevent, and address such criticism.
Increased Accommodations for Pregnant and Parenting Individuals
As the number of pregnant and parenting people increase on campuses, so will their need for different accommodations. These needs could look like increased breaks during class, extensions on exams or assignments, or a greater amount of excused absences. Institutions will be expected to develop their own policies addressing these requirements.
Under the newly proposed regulations, a licensed “health care provider” can now sign off on medical leave, so leave requests will likely increase. These providers can include midwives, registered nurses, and other non-physicians, while current regulations require the sign-off from physicians exclusively.
Medical leaves can be requested for anything from doctor appointments, pregnancy symptoms like fatigue or “morning sickness,” or recovery from an abortion or miscarriage, and administrators will need to allow for these leaves accordingly.
With more pregnant and parenting individuals, additional spaces for lactation will also arise. If your school doesn’t have sufficient lactation space, now is a good time to consider where to place them and develop any necessary policies.
For additional resources on preparing for Title IX pregnancy changes, see the Department of Education’s most recent guidance.