RICHMOND, JAN. 31 -- The Virginia General Assembly left to the federal courts today the question of whether Virginia Military Institute will remain all-male.

For the second year in a row, Sen. Elmon T. Gray (D-Sussex), a committee chairman who is the only VMI graduate in the legislature, ruled that because of a pending lawsuit that seeks to force the school to go coed, legislation that would require VMI to admit women was out of order.

Also today, a House committee grappled with a bill to require parental notification before a minor can have an abortion, but deadlocked after six motions to approve, defeat and table the bill all failed on tie votes.

The bill could be considered again, and another notification bill is pending before a different House committee. A Senate committee killed a version of the notification bill today.

The sponsor of the bill that would have required VMI to change its admissions policy, Sen. Emilie F. Miller (D-Fairfax), asked the Senate Committee on Health and Education to overrule Gray, its chairman. But her motion failed by the same 10 to 4 vote that defeated a similar bill a year ago. Today's action ends the likelihood of legislative intervention in the matter.

Miller contended that the pending litigation -- the case is to be heard in federal court in Roanoke in April -- would not be affected by her bill because it did not identify VMI by name. The legislation said that "all public institutions of higher education shall admit qualified students without regard to race, sex, religion, national origin or political affiliation."

Gray, a 1946 graduate of the Lexington school, said VMI "should have its day in court." He said the school and its supporters already have spent about $500,000 defending the lawsuit, brought by the Justice Department two years ago after an unidentified woman from Northern Virginia complained about its all-male status.

VMI, which with The Citadel in South Carolina, another military school, are the only public colleges in the nation that do not admit women, contends that its 151-year tradition of strict discipline and communal living arrangements would be destroyed if it had to admit women.

Although VMI hired a platoon of lobbyists to fight the bill, the battle in the assembly lasted only three minutes, just long enough for Miller to state her case and for Gray to rule the proposal out of order.

"Either we take leadership or someone else will set policy for Virginia," Miller argued. She noted that her colleagues are fond of "making speeches decrying federal intervention," but their continuing silence on VMI will result in a federal judge "telling us who to admit, how many and when." VMI "is a public school, it ought to be open to the public," she said.

Miller said that if the assembly had acted 25 years ago, it would not have been necessary for federal courts to order black students admitted to the University of Virginia.

Gray said he never considered removing himself from the debate because of his ties to VMI. "I don't have any more conflict than {Miller} does," he said.

Meanwhile, the abortion stalemate in the House Committee on Health, Welfare and Institutions came on a bill sponsored by Del. Emmett W. Hanger Jr. (R-Augusta). It would require that a doctor notify the parent or guardian of a girl under age 18 before performing an abortion. There would be two exceptions: when the girl declares she is abused or neglected, or when the abortion is needed to prevent death or serious injury to the girl.

A second abortion bill also is sponsored by Hanger. It would give a judge wider discretion in deciding whether the parents should be notified. The Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Frank W. Nolen (D-Augusta) would have required that a "significant person" 18 or older be notified before a girl could have an abortion.

In another matter, a proposal to withhold certain subsidies from families whose children are habitually absent from school prompted a passionate debate on the House floor before it was sent to another committee for further review.

Del. William P. Robinson Jr. (D-Norfolk) said the bill would "penalize people . . . through their stomachs" for missing school.

The bill, which would stop Aid to Dependent Children payments, was designed not as punishment, but as encouragement for parents to make sure their children attend class, according to its sponsor, Del. Stephen H. Martin (R-Chesterfield).

Also today, the state took its first step toward experimenting with the private construction and operation of prisons when the House Courts of Justice Committee approved a package of bills on the subject. The idea advanced on a vote of 11 to 7, with Republican support providing the margin.

Meanwhile, Senate and House committees approved nearly identical bills that would allow nurse practitioners to prescribe many kinds of common drugs, under the supervision of a doctor. Supporters say it will improve health care for people in rural areas, where doctors are scarce.