U.S. Commander in Iraq to Rescind Policy Punishing Pregnant Soldiers

The Associated Press reports that the top United States commander in Iraq intends to rescind the policy earlier established by one of his subordinate commanders in Iraq that had placed pregnant soldiers at risk of discipline.

According to the AP report, Gen. Ray Odierno has drafted a broad new policy for American forces in Iraq that will
take effect January 1 and will not include the pregnancy provision enacted last month.

The news of General Odierno’s order comes about a week after the pregnancy policy issued by Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo
set off widespread criticism. General Cucolo had issued a policy that
would permit the punishment of soldiers who become pregnant and their
sexual partners.

The pregnancy provision was one of a variety of
offenses for which General Cucolo said punishments could range from
minor discipline to a court-martial.

In a conference call with
reporters earlier this week, according to AP, Cucolo said he would never actually seek to
jail someone over a pregnancy provision. He said the policy was
intended to emphasize the problems created when pregnant soldiers go
home and leave behind a weaker unit.

Earlier reports on the policy suggested it was possible that pregnant soldiers might indeed face court martial or other disciplinary measures.  An ABC News report states: 

Even before the senators took aim at Cucolo’s policy, the general had
backed away from his threat today to court martial women under his
command who got pregnant. His policy statement said violation of the
rule would also apply to the men who get female soldiers pregnant, even
if the couple is married. 

Since November 4th, when the policy was first put in place, four
women soldiers were redeployed because they had become pregnant "in
violation of Cucolo’s order." The four women and two male soldiers ostensibly responsible for two of the pregnancies
received letters of reprimand that will not remain in their permanent
military files, according to ABC News reports.  One of the pregnant soldiers refused to provide the name of her partner.

Cucolo’s policy drew fire from women’s groups such as the National Organization for Women, and human rights groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, among others.  A letter protesting the policy also was written to Cuculo by four Senators, including Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH).

"We can think of no greater deterrent to women contemplating a military
career than the image of a pregnant woman being severely punished
simply for conceiving a child," the senators wrote to Cucolo today.
"This defies comprehension. As such, we urge you to immediately recind
this policy." 

Discsussion of this policy has exposed the lack of consistent access to contraceptive supplies on many bases, and the lack of access particularly to emergency contraception.  The army does not pay for abortion services for female soldiers facing unintended pregnancies; instead soldiers must take leave to fly home and and pay out of their own funds.

John Hutson, a former longtime military judge advocate and currently
the president and dean of Franklin Pierce Law School in New Hampshire, worried that Cucolo’s policy could cause an increase in
abortions overseas. And since military hospitals do not perform such
procedures, female officers may find abortions are available not "in
the way you want them," Hutson said, forcing women to potentially
dangerous providers of such services.

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  • crowepps

    Anyone want to bet on the odds that this policy would still be in place if there hadn’t been so much criticism of it? Sometimes a free press is a very, very good thing!

  • grayduck

    Was there a rape exception for female soldiers?



  • crowepps

    I believe there was a rape exception, however the rape needed to be reported, and of course if the investigation of the rape uncovered some rule breaking on the part of the victim, like drinking or fraternization or whatever, then the person reporting the rape would be punished for those and their service record would be marred, as will the service record of their superiors.  Not surprisingly, this makes it less likely that women will report being raped or that their superiors will support them in seeking a prosecution of the perpetrator.

  • crowepps

    And of course women who are raped may not find emergency contraception available to them since that STILL isn’t part of the standard required stock of military pharmacies or be able to get abortions, since those aren’t part of the standard required procedures available at military clinics even though federal law provides for federally funded abortions in cases of rape.


    "McHugh consistently voted against Rep. Davis’ efforts to expand abortion access to military women.

    Unsurprisingly, this did not come up in discussions of McHugh’s nomination, as the military abortion ban has largely disappeared from the public radar. It’s just one more category of women—including those below the poverty line, federal employees, those cared for by Indian Health Service and Peace Corps volunteers—who fall into the canyons created by sweeping bans on federal funding for abortion."