Two Lawmakers Are Working to Ban ‘Virginity Exams’ in New York

Supermajority Education Fund

December 3, 2019

Two female Democratic state lawmakers have introduced two separate pieces of legislation to ban “virginity exams” in New York. The first bill was introduced in early November by Assemblywoman Michaelle C. Solages on Nov. 8. The second, a Senate bill, was introduced by Sen. Roxanne J. Persaud of Brooklyn on Nov. 27 after rapper T.I. made troubling comments about accompanying his teenage daughter to the gynecologist to check her hymen. 

“Virginity tests” or, as the World Congress of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) refers to it, “hymen checks” are generally done by inserting fingers or a speculum into the vagina to check the status of the hymen and vaginal walls. In an October 2018 statement and report, the United Nations called hymen checks “unscientific” and “a violation of human rights,” adding that “the appearance of a hymen is not a reliable indication of intercourse and there is no known examination that can prove a history of vaginal intercourse.”

“As a member of the Assembly Health Committee, it is my sincere belief that we must proactively challenge institutionalized misogyny in the health field,” Solages said in a statement when she introduced the bill. “The notion that a woman’s body can be subject to examination to prove their worth or dignity is an outdated patriarchal concept.”

Sen. Roxanne J. Persaud’s bill makes performing or supervising this medically unnecessary procedure “an act of professional misconduct” by the medical professional as well as a possible felony charge of first-degree sexual abuse. The bill aims to protect New Yorkers, according to the justification memo submitted with the state assembly bill, because the federal government has failed to do so.

This type of examination “breaches not only moral grounds but also the privacy entitled to a female and her doctor,” Persaud said in a statement to Supermajority News. “We do not subject males to such an examination, yet it stands that it is acceptable to have such practice done and information shared for a female.” Our legislation would prohibit doctors from performing the abusive and unscientific ‘virginity examination.’ We must think of the human rights violation of women and girls that this practice ensues and move to create change and avoid re-victimization and misogynistic practices.”

This isn’t the first time the pair have introduced similar legislation to improve reproductive health care in New York state. In March, Persaud and Solages introduced legislation that would outlaw non-consensual pelvic exams together.

Here is the full text of New York state senate bill S06879, sponsored by Persaud, and Assembly bill A08742, sponsored by Solages and co-sponsored by Rick Gottfried, Andrew Hevesi, and Walter T. Mosley. The Senate bill is currently in committee.