Pregnant Soldiers Face Threat of Court-Martial
n American Army General issued a policy last month that would allow female soldiers and their sexual partners to be court-martialed in the event of a pregnancy. Major General Anthony Cucolo, a commander in Iraq, told the BBC that the policy was intended to protect the safety of his troops. "I've got a mission to do, I'm given a finite number of soldiers with which to do it and I need every one of them. So I'm going to take every measure I can to keep them all strong, fit and with me for the twelve months we are in the combat zone," he said.
Since the announcement, General Cucolo has faced considerable criticism from veterans, women's rights groups, and lawmakers. The Christian Science Monitor reported that on Tuesday the Army received a letter from Senators Barbara Mikulski (D-MD), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), and Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), who wrote, "Although Major General Cucolo stated today that a pregnant soldier would not necessarily be punished by court-martial under this policy, we believe the threat of criminal sanctions in the case of pregnancy goes far beyond what is needed to maintain good order and discipline. This policy could encourage female soldiers to delay seeking critical medical care with potentially serious consequences for mother and child."
In response to his critics, General Cucolo told a group of reporters on a conference call that he doubts the court-martial threat would ever be put to use, saying, "I do not ever see myself putting a soldier in jail for this,"reported the Christian Science Monitor.
The Associated Press reports that since the policy went into effect on November 4th, four women and three men have been found to be in violation of it. The pregnant soldiers were sent home, as is normal Army policy, and all parties involved received letters of reprimand.
Military health centers are allowed to stock contraception, but are not required to do so. Last week, Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and Olympia Snowe (R-ME) introduced legislation that would force military health centers to keep emergency contraception in stock, stated the Minnesota Post. American servicewomen also have no access to abortion services because of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions.
Media Resources: BBC 12/20/09; Chrisitan Science Monitor 12/22/09; AP 12/22/09; Minnesota Post 12/19/09