U.S. personnel in Iraq could face court-martial for getting pregnant
By TERI WEAVER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 19, 2009
The Army general commanding U.S. forces in northern Iraq has added pregnancy to the list of prohibitions for personnel under his command.
The policy, which went into effect Nov. 4, makes it possible to face punishment, including a court-martial and jail time, for becoming pregnant or impregnating a servicemember, according to the wording of the policy and confirmations from Army officials.
The rule governs all those serving under Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo III, who commands Multi-National Division-North, including Balad, Kirkuk, Tikrit, Mosul and Samarra. According to the order, it is “applicable to all United States military personnel, and to all civilians, serving with, employed by, or accompanying” the military in northern Iraq, with few exceptions.
Someone would violate the policy by “becoming pregnant, or impregnating a soldier, while assigned to the Task Force Marne (Area of Operations), resulting in the redeployment of the pregnant soldier,” according to the order.
The policy also applies to married couples who are at war together, Army spokesman Maj. Lee Peters told Stars and Stripes in an e-mail message. Both the husband and wife could face punishment under the policy.
Peters said that, despite the broad wording of the policy, it is meant to apply only when pregnancies affect a unit’s ability to perform its mission.
“When a soldier becomes pregnant or causes a soldier to become pregnant through consensual activity,” Peters said, “the redeployment of the pregnant soldier creates a void in the unit and has a negative impact on the unit’s ability to accomplish its mission. Another soldier must assume the pregnant soldier’s responsibilities.”
No one has been punished or accused under the new policy, according to Col. David S. Thompson, the inspector general for all soldiers in Iraq.
Military staff judge advocates for both MND-North and Multi-National Force Iraq have reviewed and approved the policy, according to Peters and Thompson.
“It is a lawful order,” Thompson said Friday during a phone interview.
Thompson, who has served 29 of the past 39 months in Iraq as an inspector general, said it’s the first time he can recall pregnancy being prohibited.
Armywide policy requires that a pregnant soldier in Iraq be removed from the war theater within 14 days.
Eugene Fidell, who teaches military law at Yale Law School and is president of the National Institute of Military Justice, said he understands the motivations of the order.
“You have to assume it’s in response to a number of incidents that have caused female GIs to be sidelined at a time when they can’t be spared,” he said.
But he said the prohibition is fraught with “a mare’s nest of legal, ethical and policy issues” that highlight the discord between personal autonomy and military needs.
“Here you really have issues that go to the core of personal autonomy: reproductive rights,” he said.
There are also issues of enforcement, Fidell said. The woman is immediately suspect once the pregnancy comes to light, but unless she identifies her partner, the male could go unpunished despite bearing the same culpability under the order.
Stars and Stripes reporter Megan McCloskey contributed to this report.