Sunday, January 08, 2006

Rights and Reason: The Virginia Military Institute and Abortion

The Virginia Military Institute (VMI) is a curious institution—it is both a military academy and a state-supported college. Its history draws back to before the US Civil War (future confederate general Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson served as a professor) and all of its students participated in the late unpleasantness as confederate solders during the battle of New Market. Previously an all-male institution, VMI was opened to women when it lost United States v. Virginia in 1996.

VMI is governed by an honor code that demands that “cadets will not lie, cheat, steal, nor tolerate those who do.” There is only one punishment for breaking the VMI honor code: immediate expulsion from the academy in the form of a “Drum Out” ceremony.

Out of curiosity, I visited the VMI website today and was reading through the “New Cadet Handbook” when I found this:

Marriage and Parenthood. All VMI cadets must live in Barracks and participate in a demanding and rigorous military program that does not permit attention to the duties implicated by marriage or parenthood. Pursuant to the policy adopted by the Board of Visitors, any cadet who marries or becomes a parent is expected to resign from the Corps. Absent voluntary resignation, should the Institute confirm that a cadet is married or the parent of a child, such cadet shall be separated from the Corps for failure of eligibility at the end of the semester in which the information is received and confirmed. For the purpose of the policy, the responsibilities of parenthood are deemed to begin upon a cadet’s learning that a child has been conceived as a result of his or her conduct. [Emphasis added.]
Perhaps VMI’s Board of Visitors have never heard of abortion. I suspect the opposite however; VMI’s policy is nothing more then a cheap way of smuggling anti-abortion policy into the Institute.

VMI’s establishment of parenthood at conception is reprehensible and patently absurd. One does not become a parent upon the formation of a clump of cells. Yet VMI denies a cadet or the cadet partner of a female who has an abortion or takes RU-486 from continuing at VMI on the grounds that either scenario nevertheless makes the cadet a “parent.” Talk about twisting definitions. Furthermore, I don’t know how VMI’s militant (for lack of a better word) anti-abortion policy can be legal, given that it is plainly discriminatory and VMI is a state-supported institution.

I think VMI’s current anti-abortion policy is even worse that its previous refusal to grant admission to women. At least that policy could be defended, however benightedly, on the grounds of long-held tradition. VMI’s current policy only serves to destroy the cadet careers of those who have sex, get pregnant, and then choose to abort their pregnancy.

No comments: