Valencia College, a public school in Florida, allegedly required students to allow their classmates to insert a probe inside their vaginas.
This alleged practice came to light after three students, who say they quit the school’s sonography program due to the mandatory probes, sued the school in federal court. Although a trial judge dismissed their suit, a federal appeals court reinstated it on Tuesday.
Students in the sonography program are trained to perform transvaginal ultrasounds, a medical procedure used to diagnose a wide range of women’s health conditions. As the court explains, however, the procedure “requires inserting a probe into the vagina.” It involves “heavy lubrication, and sometimes the technician will stimulate the patient to help insert the probe.”
One of the students, who would perform this procedure on his classmates, was male.
According to the plaintiffs, female students were told that they needed to undergo this procedure “to become better technicians.” Students who protested were told to find another school, threatened with lower grades, and told that they would be blacklisted at nearby hospitals. A student who ultimately refused to be probed received failing grades and was yelled at “for an hour until she had a panic attack.”
Among other things, the appeals court’s opinion concludes that “inserting a probe into a woman’s vagina is plainly a search” for Fourth Amendment purposes “when performed by the government.” This holding could potentially prove significant in a different line of cases involving forced vaginal probes.
A few years ago, conservative lawmakers rallied behind legislation requiring women who wish to obtain an abortion to first submit to such a probe. Such legislation, already dubious under Supreme Court decisions protecting the right to choose an abortion, is now even more vulnerable in states bound by the decision in Shaheen.