Your Body Is a Battleground: Pregnancy Discrimination and College Sports after 50 Years of Title IX


  • David A. McArdle Stirling University
  • Sylvia de Mars Newcastle University



This article offers a new perspective on academic institutions’ engagement with Title IX, notably its provisions on pregnant and parenting students, as laid down in Regulation 34 CFR 106.41 as amended (the Pregnancy Regulation), and the concomitant NCAA model policy on pregnant and parenting student-athletes. That new perspective is achieved through a systematic content analysis of institutional pregnancy statements in schools’ online student-athlete handbooks (OSAHs). There are few, if any, other examples of OSAHs being subjected to this degree of scrutiny, so the authors introduce readers to the rich source of data that OSAHs offer, and provide guidance on their analysis and interpretation.
In considering why so few institutions have a pregnancy statement in their OSAHs, and why hardly any of them reflect the NCAA’s model to any meaningful extent, the authors contend that institutions made a deliberate policy choice that was in part facilitated by the Supreme Court’s decision in Gebser v Lago Vista Independent School District 524 US 274 (1998). The issue of pregnancy discrimination thus reflects a recurring feature within college sports: a three-way struggle between legal norms, a regulator with extensive but still limited powers, and member institutions that possess varying degrees of influence. On this occasion, the struggle has resulted in a comparative handful of colleges exercising disproportionate power not only over those other stakeholders, but also over the student-athletes whose wellbeing should lie at the heart of the relationship between them.

Author Biographies

David A. McArdle, Stirling University

David McArdle, LLB, PhD, is a senior lecturer in the School of Law at Stirling University, Scotland. His research focuses on sports’ medico-legal issues, comparative sports law, and socio-legal research methods.

Sylvia de Mars, Newcastle University

Sylvia de Mars, LLM, PhD, is a senior lecturer at Newcastle University School of Law, England. Her areas of expertise include European Union law, comparative constitutional law, and empirical research methods.






Original Research