22 December 2009

For U.S. soldiers in Iraq, pregnancy is now a punishable offense

Former military folks I've talked with have told me that it feels as though the military owns you. Their interest in your activities apparently extends beyond your on-the-job performance and into your personal life as well. And now I'm wondering if they've taken it a bit too far.

According to a new policy that went into effect on November 4, U.S. troops in northern Iraq could face court-martial and jail time if they become pregnant or if they impregnate another service member. This also applies to married couples who are serving in Iraq together. The Army wants them to take precautions to avoid pregnancy, since pregnancy would prevent the expectant soldier from completing her service in Iraq and would thereby "have a negative impact on the unit's ability to accomplish its mission."

And what if Mother Nature doesn't cooperate and a soldier gets pregnant anyway? An ABC News article points out that abortions are not performed in military hospitals, so a desperate soldier who finds herself pregnant might feel she must resort to a back-alley abortionist to terminate the pregnancy. Think about it: The Army won't let you have an abortion, so you either find some seedy abortion provider or face the prospect of jail time.

In an article for Think Progress, Amanda Terkel raises another important concern:
"Additionally, it's unclear what will happen to a woman who is raped and becomes pregnant. She would technically be eligible for jailtime, but if she is unable to identify her attacker(s), they may go free. Rape and other forms of sexual assault are severe problems in the military. In May, the Pentagon reported that it had 'received 2,923 reports of sexual assault across the military in the 12 months ending Sept. 30 2008. That's about a 9 percent increase over the totals reported the year before, but only a fraction of the crimes presumably being committed.'"
Will policies such as this prompt women to think twice before signing up for service? Time will tell. (And, if so, the Army loses those skill sets anyway.)

In the meantime, I'll second another point that Terkel makes in her article:
"With the military resorting to these extreme discriminatory 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."
Amen. Don't have to worry about pregnancy among gay soldiers -- at least not from consensual sex.

But, of course, that doesn't solve the straight woman's problem.

So what's next -- throwing a soldier in jail for accidentally breaking an arm or a leg? After all, that could also impact the unit's collective performance. Gotta stop being careless and klutzy.

Methinks the Army may have just erected another slippery slope.

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