New Marching Orders: No Babies

12.22.09 Army says pregnancy means court martial, jail time for female soldiers, military partners (married or not)

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American soldiers in Iraq who get pregnant or who impregnate a service member—even if they're married to each other—will now face court martial and possible jail time, per order from the commanding general of U.S. military forces in northern Iraq, CNN reports.

Military officials say the "lawful order" was issued because Army policy requires a pregnant soldier to be removed from the war zone within 14 days of learning of her pregnancy. Her removal leaves a vacancy in the unit, which makes it more difficult to complete the mission. The move comes in response to a high-level of cases of sidelined female soldiers at a time when they can't be spared in Iraq.

MSNBC reports that so far seven soldiers—four female soldiers and three male soldiers—have been disciplined for disobeying the order, which went into effect Nov. 4. Military officials say it's the first time anyone can recall pregnancy being prohibited.

According to reports, the new rule got a go-ahead from military lawyers. However, the move raises legal, ethical and personal reproductive rights issues.

Crib Notes has heard its fair share of pregnancy- and motherhood-related bans—from Facebook erasing breastfeeding images to tainted formula from China to drop-side cribs and one town keeping teens from trick-or-treating. I'm sure we haven't heard the last of this military move. Stay tuned ...

  • UPDATE: Over the holiday weekend, the U.S. military decided to alter the pregnancy penalty announced last week for all soldiers and military personnel serving in Iraq. The controversial rule will no longer apply to all personnel involved in a pregnancy; it will only apply to the female soldiers who get pregnant. In case of a pregnancy, a permanent letter of reprimand will be placed in her file; a court martial is still possible but officials can voluntarily refrain from imposing that penalty. Although some high-ranking military officials are still defending the no-pregnancy rule, they emphasize that this is a stop-loss issue and hope female soldiers take pregnancy more seriously, especially when their skills and service are crucially needed in Iraq and Afghanistan at this time.

Maria Vega is Fit Pregnancy magazine's copy editor.