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By Galen Sherwin, Staff Attorney ACLU Women's Rights Project

Women should not be forced to choose between breastfeeding their babies and pursuing a legal education — right?

Wrong — at least according to the Law School Admissions Council (LSAC), the organization that administers the LSAT.

This summer, our sister organization, MomsRising, contacted us about one of their members, Ashley (she prefers that we use only her first name), a new mom who was planning to take the LSAT in October. Ashley had asked for additional break time so that she could pump breast milk for her 5 month old son during the test. (It typically takes half an hour to pump, but the LSAT only has one 15 minute break during the test). Her request was denied — when she initially called to request this accommodation, she was told she would either have to take the test under standard procedure, wean her baby in time for the October 1 test date, or opt to take the test at a later time when she was no longer breastfeeding. Seriously.

When we looked into her case, we learned that LSAC has a blanket policy of refusing such requests from women who are breastfeeding, because they are not considered “disabled.” This puts breastfeeding women at a significant disadvantage. Babies typically eat every two to three hours; if moms are away from their babies and aren’t able to empty their breasts on the same schedule, it causes pain, possible infection, and reduction in milk supply. Without sufficient time to pump, Ashley, and other moms in her position, will become increasingly uncomfortable as the test progresses—a serious distraction that could lead to a lower score, not to mention the health risks.

Because the LSAT is one of the gateways to law school admission — it is universally used by U.S. law schools as a primary admissions criterion — this policy creates a barrier to women’s entry into the entire legal profession. And law is not the only profession with this problem in its testing system. A few years ago, a woman in Massachusetts had to get a court order so that she could pump during the Medical Licensing Examination.

In a phone call yesterday, the general counsel of LSAC, Joan VanTol, was unresponsive to arguments about inequality in educational opportunity, and merely reiterated her position that LSAT was under no legal obligation to offer Ashley an accommodation. Essentially, the message LSAC appears to be sending is that it does not care whether this policy disadvantages women.

When I called Ashley and told her that LSAC was not budging, she said (with some feeling), “I’m taking that exam on Saturday, no matter what.” But she still wants to push to change the policy, because “it’s just not right.” It sounds like she’s on track to become a kick-ass lawyer.

TAKE ACTION >> Send an e-mail to the Board and CEO of LSAC, urging them to change their policy and allow nursing mothers reasonable accomodations during the LSAT! Then, post the following to Twitter, to send them a message and to spread the word to your friends:

Hey @Official_LSAT! Don’t shut nursing moms out of law school! Change your policy to accommodate breastfeeding women! http://aclu.org/LSAT

As a special bonus action, if you're really riled up, you can go to LSAC's Facebook page, a post the same message above there as well. Let 'em know how you really feel!


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