Military Pregnancy Ban: What's the Point?

Troops and personnel in northern Iraq are formally prohibited from getting pregnant

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As if they didn't already have enough to worry about, U.S. military personnel in Iraq may have to worry about facing court-martial over pregnancy. Major General Anthony Cucolo, who commands the forces in northern Iraq, has officially prohibited pregnancy, a rule that would allow for punishing any military woman who got pregnant, as well as the military man responsible. Seven soldiers have already been punished under the rule, but none were court martialled and the only permanent reprimand went to a married man who impregnated his female subordinate. Cucolo is already backing away from the policy, which was made official last month but did not become public until Saturday. Unsurprisingly, outrage is high. Is the policy as stupid as it seems, or is there some merit?

  • Pregnancy a Serious Military Issue  Iraq veteran Captain Crispin Burke agrees with Cucolo that "deployment pregnancies are [a] huge morale issue that has been largely swept under the rug." He writes, "For both males and the vast majority of females in the military who are serving their country honorably, there's a profound sense of resentment towards women who get pregnant in a combat zone and go home early." Burke says that female troops sometimes use pregnancy to avoid service, though not always. "I doubt that every pregnant Soldier will get a trial by court-martial -- I think it's largely in place as a deterrent, rather than as a feasible course of action in most cases."
  • A Double Standard  Mom Logic's Vivian Manning-Schaffel insists, "I say unless the U.S. Military plans on distributing condoms, IUDs, and birth control pills along with the standardized rations, the punishment of pregnancy counters equal rights." She writes, "On one hand, I completely understand why the 'war theater' is no place for a preggo. Hell, it's no place for anyone. And I can see why a woman in need of a way out of Iraq could see pregnancy as a one-way ticket back home. But on the other, this policy poses a hefty double-standard. Throughout history, how many stories have you heard about soldiers impregnating women while on duty? 'Madame Butterfly,' anyone?"
  • A Burden On Military  A commenter on the NPR story wrote, "it is worth remembering facilities and the support network do not exist for the military to support the women in Iraq and sending them home does hurt a unit. They will be on 'limited duty' and could not contribute to the fighting if it was required or go on convoys or participate in any heavy lifting that their jobs may entail. Even an office job in Iraq still requires 12-16 work hours that pregnant women are often advised against doing. Replacements just do not materialize."
  • An Unenforceable Ban  Army photojournalist Kate Hoit writes that sex in a war zone happens. "If you can't even enforce the rules already at hand, why attempt to take the next step? There is absolutely no way you can keep soldiers from having sex," she writes. "And anyone who has served in the military knows when a soldier wants to have sex, they'll have it and it doesn't matter where. You can't ban pregnancies if you can't even control the underlying problems."
  • You Know Who Never Gets Pregnant?  Think Progress's Amanda Terkel reminds us. "With the military resorting to these extreme tactics to retain soldiers with “critical skills,” it’s another reminder about why the Obama administration needs to repeal Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell."
  • 'Natural Consequence' Of Coed Military  The Wichita Falls, Texas, Times-Record-News argues that military leadership will just have to accept this kind of thing. "Banning pregnancy among Army personnel serving in Iraq makes sense, on perhaps one level. But any couple who has found themselves with an unexpected pregnancy can tell you, these things happen," they write. "As long as you have men and women in the same ZIP code, there will be pregnancies. The military, surely, is smart enough to figure this out."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.