Women make good soldiers, not mothers
Idaho State Journal Editorial
The 1,700 female soldiers serving in Iraq under the command of Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo III fill many roles. They fly helicopters, they run satellites. They are mechanics. They are medics. They are intelligence analysts.
One thing they cannot be, however, is mothers, according to General Cucolo’s rules. The general is standing by his rule that pregnancy is a punishable offense for soldiers serving in Iraq.
Seven soldiers — four women and three men, also subjects of the order — have already been punished under his six-week-old rules making pregnancy a violation of military law. General Cucolo denies violators might be punished by court-martial or jail time, saying disciplinary actions are being handled at a lower level with letters of reprimand.
“The message to my female soldiers is that I need you for the duration,” General Cucolo said in a phone interview with Stars and Stripes. “Please think before you act.”
So far, four female U.S. senators and the National Organization for Women (NOW) have joined a chorus of critics. “This policy could encourage female soldiers to delay seeking critical medical care with potentially serious consequences for mother and child,” wrote Sens. Barbara Boxer, Barbara Mikulski, Jeanne Shaheen and Kirsten Gillibrand in a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh.
The Army is ambivalent. Three decades ago, women were required to give up their children for adoption if they wanted to remain on active duty. Now, the military has no rules against sexual activity in Iraq and in some places allows husbands and wives to share living quarters, though the no-pregnancy mandate applies to married couples as well as single soldiers.
General Order No. 1 bars U.S. troops and civilians attached to the military from consuming alcohol — good luck on that — but does not ban sex. U.S. Central Command rules do not prohibit “sexual contact between consenting, single service members.” Hello, real world.
It’s not that Cucolo is insensitive. He has a job to do, at least until U.S. troops are withdrawn in two years. “Anyone who leaves the fight early creates a burden on their teammates,” he says. “Such decisions should have professional consequences.”
But how about the real-life view of Spc. Courtney Smith, a 22-year-old medic, who says the pregnancy ban is “ridiculous.”
She says sexual contact between soldiers is inevitable and — though her medical unit makes contraceptives available to anyone who wants them — that makes some pregnancies inevitable as well.
The Army has found that it cannot wage war without women soldiers, and they have proven invaluable as members of U.S. forces. But as long as they are in close contact with their male counterparts, General Cucolo’s fears are bound to be realized, and letters of reprimand will not be a deterrent for everyone. The unacceptable alternative is to send all the women home.