Students who were forced to probe each other’s vaginas will take school to court
When you’re a student, you have to do a lot of things you don’t feel like doing. But usually, we’re talking about shit like going to your 8 a.m. class or being lab partners with a Calvin Harris fan. But three Valencia College sonography students were forced to give vaginal probes to each other and they’ve been granted a chance to sue their school saying that it violated their Fourth Amendment rights; the protection against “unreasonable search” by the government. Since Valencia is a public school, they might have a chance at actually winning.
They also say that their First Amendment rights were violated when they complained to school officials and were ignored. Originally, the suit was tossed out but a federal appeals court reinstated the lawsuit on the premise that they might have a good fight with this “unreasonable search” argument, something which is usually used to stop police from searching for evidence.
Valencia’s sonography program is super prestigious and competitive (they only accept 12 students a year), and the students practice all kinds of ultrasound techniques. But three of them, Mellisa Milward, Elyse Ugalde and Ashley Rose, drew the line at performing a transvaginal ultrasound. To do a transvaginal ultrasound, one has to insert a transducer into a vagina, according to the suit. “The probe is also rather large and can be painful for some women,” in addition to requiring heavy lubrication, the suit says.
The school decided that to learn how to do the procedure, the students would do one each other. They even mixed up men and women, so a student could be probed by a male classmate. And pay tuition for it. Milward, Ugalde, and Rose were not comfortable with that idea. But the school didn’t have time for those kind of complaints. Program chair Barbara Ball “told them they could find another school if they did not wish to be probed,” the court said. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Ball also told one of the students that she was “sexy” while practicing her technique. The three women were told that their grades would be lowered if the didn’t participate — Milward and Ugalde eventually did, but Rose was standing her ground. Eventually, though, all three of them have dropped out after media attention was turned to the transvaginal ultrasound procedure.
After the three filed a lawsuit last spring, the college has stopped the requiring students to practice the probes on women. The ruling stated, “inserting a probe into a woman’s vagina is plainly a search when performed by the government. Judge William Pryor, along with Stanley Marcus and Hugh Lawson, wrote, “Where the government physically intrudes on a subject enumerated within the Fourth Amendment, such as a person, a search ‘has undoubtedly occurred.” A search and mini assault, apparently. The suit reads, “A student would place a condom over the probe and then apply generous amounts of lubrication to the probe. In some cases, the student would have to sexually ‘stimulate’ plaintiffs in order to facilitate inserting the probe into plaintiffs’ vaginas.”
In a country where one of the presidential nominees talks about grabbing pussy, matching up classmates to probe vaginas almost sounds tame. But there’s nothing tame about a tranvaginal ultrasound and in fact, if the students are successful in proving that it violates the Fourth Amendment, it would be a big win for women’s health advocates all around. Many conservatives, including Indiana Gov. and vice-presidential candidate Mike Pence, want to force women to have transvaginal ultrasounds before they can get an abortion. Using the search argument, states might be forced to walk back their intrusive recommendations, which means at least there might be one upside to this horrible practice.