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Military to drop order on soldiers' pregnancy in Iraq

PREVIOUS STORIES:
U.S. personnel in Iraq could face court-martial for getting pregnant
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WASHINGTON — The controversial order punishing pregnancy among troops serving in northern Iraq will cease to exist on Jan. 1 when forces throughout the country begin operating under a new, unified set of regulations, an Army official has confirmed.

With the transformation from Multi-National Force-Iraq to United States Forces-Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, the top U.S. commander in the country, is issuing a comprehensive General Order No. 1, according Lt. Col. Josslyn Aberle, spokeswoman for Odierno.

It will draw from various orders previously in place but leave out the pregnancy punishments enacted in November by Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo.

The decision to drop pregnancy from the list of prohibitions for U.S. soldierscomes less than a week after Stars and Stripes reported onCucolo's order. The policy, which leaves open the possibility of court-martial and jail time for soldiers whobecome pregnant or impregnate others, drew sharp criticism fromopponents, who saidit infringed on basic rights of the individual.

Among the critics were four Democratic senators who wrote a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh, asking him to rescind the pregnancy restriction.

“This policy could encourage female soldiers to delay seeking critical medical care with potentially serious consequences for the mother and child,” said the letter signed by Barbara Boxer, Barbara Mikulski, Jeanne Shaheen and Kristen Gillibrand. ”We can think of no greater deterrent to women contemplating a military career than the image of a pregnant woman being severely punished for simply conceiving a child. That defies comprehension.”

Cucolo this week said that seven soldiers – four women and three men – had faced administrative punishment for violating the pregnancy rule. He spent much of the last several days defending the policy, which he said was meant to stress the importance of his female soldiers and the problems created when a pregnant soldier is sent home from a war zone. He added that he had no intention of court-martialing violators.

But by Thursday, it was clear that the pregnancy ban would not be included in the new set of general orders for troops that will take effect in 2010 when the new headquarters United States Forces-Iraq stands up.

Aberle said the new policy will be aligned with both U.S. Central Command and Multi-National Corps Iraq’s policy, neither of which have a provision on pregnancy.

And a statement made Thursday by Multi-National Force-Iraq indicated that the military wanted to prevent similar issues in the future.

“All requests by subordinate units to impose further restrictions of activities addressed in General Order Number One will require approval of the USF-I Commander,” the statement said.


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