27 thoughts on “Court-martial for pregnancy

  1. At least the general has got the idea that more than one person is responsible when a pregnancy occurs.

    Given the bits I saw from an interview with him, the general appears to think that all pegnancy that doesn’t result from sexual assault is a matter of choice. Would that were so!

  2. Yes, I was impressed by that (the more than one person bit) too. It’s a pretty sad state when that qualifies as impressive.

  3. I’m trying to think whether there’s anything solid behind my sense that something’s quite wrong in the idea of court marshalling for pregnancy. Given the picture of its being a choice is too simplistic, it seems a very harsh and potentially quite damaging thing to happen.

  4. It’s only right that the men should also be punished. It was also interesting to hear him point out that he could not afford to lose one woman soldier on the battle field…and the impact it has on the rest of the soldiers when a woman is forced to the sidelines for any reason. In the past the men have never been punished. It is great to see the punishments are now issued fairly. Also in the past you never really heard top Generals stressing that they could not afford to lose one WOMAN soldier. How times have changed. Nice to see the military is moving in the right direction!

  5. And yet, nobody was court-martialled for the Haditha massacre because it was “an accident”.

    Do they plan to put offending couples in front of the firing squad before or after the woman delivers the child?

  6. They certainly gave out condoms back in WWI and II. I would be shocked if Bush and co. managed to stop them.

    I would say that given that pregnant women are evacuated from Iraq/Afghanistan, it’s reasonable to hold an *inquiry* when a woman gets pregnant to figure out who was the father and why the couple decided to risk pregnancy in a war zone… But it certainly shouldn’t be an automatic court martial or dishonorable discharge or anything like that. They should try to figure out if the only reason for the pregnancy was to get out of service. In that case, it seems like some punishment is in order, because the poor resulting child will have to grow up knowing all of his/her life that they were only born to help mom and dad get out of the line of fire! Of course, a lot of know we were ‘accidents’ or whatnot, but it seems a bit vulgar to give birth for purely instrumental reason.

    Interesting philosophical puzzle: From a Kantian ethics point of view, would this count as treating the unconceived child as a ‘means’ rather than an ‘end’? Do we owe something to the future dignity of the resulting person, or is Kant’s means/end separation purely synchronic?

  7. Sweet! I know this one will come up in future classes. Let’s see if you guys can make Kantian ethics interesting again.
    After I discovered that Kant himself was an anti-abolitionist who advocated beating his slaves with a bamboo cane, anything anybody told me about what the man had to say about “intrinsic worth” started to sound like Charlie Brown’s teacher. Anybody except maybe Alabama’s Dr. James Rachels–and that’s a very cautious, “thus far” maybe.

    And let’s not forget the “axe murderer at the door” conundrum. Unlike Kant, most of us recognize that a little lie can spare people a world of grief. Who has to tell the kid the circumstances of his/her conception anyway? When the kid reaches an age where he/she is old enough to understand the truth, he/she might just be grateful to have living, whole, sane parents rather than never getting a chance to be conceived at all.

  8. Nice point, Carl, but the question is, of course, whether it is a burden to know that you were instrumental in getting your parents out of the line of fire. I can imagine worse reasons (or lack thereof) for coming into existence.
    I was put on this world as a “compensation child” for a severely handicapped older sister… she died when I was 4. I had a VERY happy childhood and I don’t mind at all that my parents thought, ohhh heavens, this baby girl isn’t going to live long… let’s try for another child before we lose the nerve. (Simplified version, but I suppose the same might hold true for parents conceiving in a war zone).
    I once saw a documentary of a family where the only daughter needed a bone marrow transplant, and there were no donors available, and the parents decided to have another kid. That too was very instrumental. The new baby girl became the bone marrow donor for her older sister. I am actually curious what became of that family, it must have been at least 15 years ago since I saw that documentary. But I can imagine them all being intensely grateful for eachother’s existence. It doesn’t have to be bad to serve some instrumental purpose, as long as it is not the end of it, I guess.
    Anyway, it is always so inconvenient when a woman with a job gets pregnant, doesn’t it? uhuh. I agree with previous commenters that it is a step forward that it is acknowledged that immaculate conception, despite the season, is not very likely and there is a guy involved in the process who has responsibility too. However, I still think there is something essentially wrong in making procreation a crime.
    Some other posts on this matter that I stumbled on and thought had something to add are here (via Allen McDuffee) and here (Alternet)

  9. Jender: This is a “Spam Gremlin” alert. (JJ’s pet-name for the spam-filter problem) I just submitted a response to Carl’s commentary on Kant’s CI2. The problem may be with certain keywords that may not be making it past the site’s troll filters. They were ONLY a very appropriate description of the way Kant believed his–ahem– household help should be treated, according to Dr. Charles W. Mills, cited in Kant’s Anthropology.

    I thought I made a half-decent, though jargon-free as ever response this time. Can you please post my comment if you find it?

  10. Thanks Hippocampa. You can delete my slightly modified version of blog#8 that I just posted a few minutes ago, and this one too if you’d like.

  11. As we’re looking at the situation, we should remember that people can go on leave. So one scenario is that a women goes on compassionate leave for a death in her family, resides again with husband and turns up in the battlefield quite unintentionally pregnant.

    I must confess that I was unexpectedly pleased with the mention of how valuable a woman soldier can be. I suspect in the back of my mind there was confirmation that women can serve in such roles, something I had never before heard. This reminds me of how important it can be to see women valued in professional roles.

  12. I don’t want to get off topic too far but speaking of women in the military I couldn’t help but think of Rebecca Marier. She was the first woman that graduated #1 in a class at West Point back in 1995. There were 850 men and only 130 women in the class. A ratio of 8 men to for every 1 woman! The cadets were ranked by combining all of the following categories:

    1. Academics
    2. Military Performance (Field Tactics & Riflery)
    3. Physical Fitness

    It doesn’t surprise me at all that a woman would beat the men in academics. But it did surprise me that she also beat 850 men in the Military Performance and Physical Fitness categories as well.

    I can’t believe it has been nearly 15 years now. Anyway, sorry to get off topic!

  13. I’m a female soldier serving in the U.S. Army under Gen. Cucculo’s command. I was briefed on this policy about before we deployed in October 09.
    Male and Female soldiers were both briefed on this addition to 3rd ID’s General Order 1, which has a list of banned actions and behaviors, before we deployed.
    Although a court martial is a possible end for disobeying this order, it was never stated as a possibility. Pregnancy is punishable by the Uniform Code of Military Justice [UCMJ]. Most of the time UCMJ punished soldiers with an Article 15 [Non-Judicial Punishment]. Unfortunately, the media didn’t take the time to report on the nuances of on UCMJ and failed to accurately report a story, yet again. If you’ve followed up on this article Gen Cucculo stated today that he never considered Court Marshalling soldiers for this breech of behavior.
    The source of this policy is that it’s not uncommon for female soldiers to become pregnant to avoid deployments. In my own Battalion we left no less than 20 females in the rear for this deployment. Some were 7-9 month pregnant, quite a few were “surprised” during a deployment medical screening, and some there are suspicions about whether or they choose to create a life rather than deploy.
    There are male soldiers who intentionally harm themselves to attempt to avoid deployment, but when found out they’re either put on a plane, injury and all, or they face UCMJ and are labeled as a “shitbag soldier” and a military social pariah. Females who openly admit their plans to become pregnant to avoid deployment orders are placed in this category. When female soldiers become pregnant to escape deployment it “makes us all look bad”. There’s enough sexism in the armed services when, females use what most male soldiers see as our primary function in life to get out of the most primary function of being a soldier, deploying, it detracts from the efforts of hard working female soldiers who do their duty.
    The U.S. Army has a very generous pregnancy/maternity leave policy. Pregnant females are non-deployable after the first trimester, are put on light duty after the first trimester, and are on leave for about 3 months after they give birth. That’s 3 months leave with full benefits. So, after 9 months of pregnancy, 3 months of leave, and also being assigned to light duty when she does return to work; a female soldier is not assigned to regular duty for about a year when she becomes a mother.
    Pregnant female soldiers can choose to be chaptered out [administratively separated] of the U.S. Army. They aren’t given a dishonorable discharge, or imprisoned, or demoted, or given any putative punishment. We have a female Captain in the rear who was put in command of our rear detachment because recently postpartum and non-deployable. She was given a command that usually reserved for a LT. Colonial because she’s competent and a new mom. For the most part, the U.S. Army is very good to pregnant/postpartum soldiers, and invests a lot of resources into female soldiers in this respect. It’s not wrong for a commanding general who is already undermanned to try to keep all his soldiers in the fight.
    The U.S. Army has more birth control than your average Planned Parenthood. Any female solider can find the birth control that suits her needs. We have every form of “the pill”, all IUDs, depo, and Implanon; the neuvo ring isn’t available in the combat zone because the refrigeration issue. There are also condoms readily available, both free and for sale. There are baskets of free condoms available at the Troop Medical Clinic. I’ve been to no less than 3 “safe sex” briefings in the 5 months that I’ve been with my unit. The U.S. Army, especially those under General Cucculo’s command, are being saturated with information on STDs/STIs because they are rampant in our brigade. In sort, the U.S. Army is really trying to change the sex culture of its soldiers to make us responsible sex partners. Sure, it’s because “pissing fire” means that soldiers are not “combat ready”, but it’s better than trying to push abstinence.

    When it comes down to it, it’s the male and female soldier’s responsibility to use the resources the army provides for free to prevent pregnancy now that the command is not punishing soldiers not having sex anymore.

    What I take issue with is that I’m a married female soldier whose husband is not deployed with her. I will be going home for my 15 days Rest & Relaxation [leave], where I will seeing my husband, among other things. I have been and will continue to be on hormonal birth control. We’re not ready to have children, so we’ll be taking other precautions to ensure that I don’t return to Iraq pregnant. However, if I do I want the medic who issued my birth control to stand next to me when I receive an Article 15 for breech of conduct so that s/he can be next to receive some administrative punishment.

  14. Thank you, PV2, that was far more informative and relevant than some of the head-trip noodling and opinion spewing I’ve seen on other sites through the links to other blogs on the issue. This is also the second time in about a month and a half that I’ve seen the BBC present such an over-sensationalized misquote as “news”.

    I know they’ll keep us posted about what happens to the journalist(s) that put this misinformation out in the first place.

    Enjoy your R&R.

  15. PV2, thanks so much for stopping by and offering us such full information. What strikes me most, reading your account, is how incongruous it is (if true) that it is so difficult for US military women to obtain abortions. After all, if it’s so important not to lose women soldiers to motherhood it seems not just wrong but very impractical to make it so difficult for military women who want abortions to get them. Is what I’ve read right about abortion? (This is the sort of thing I’ve read: http://womensrights.change.org/blog/view/denied_abortion_access_military_women_forced_to_take_desperate_steps.)

  16. PV2 ajws, maybe you know something about this. i read this article recently:
    http://www.religiondispatches.org/archive/religiousright/2111/military_abortion_ban:_female_soldiers_not_protected_by_constitution_they_defend

    in it, it’s claimed that abortion isn’t available in overseas military hospitals/clinics. the article is actually about a female soldier who became pregnant in iraq and resorted to trying to perform an abortion on herself in order to avoid discharge/bad-soldier stigma.

    is it accurate? is it true that american soldiers overseas don’t have access to abortion?

  17. Re: Abortion

    I’ve only been in the Army for 11 months, so my experience is limited with the system is limited. As a trained philosopher, I’ve picked up on the rules and regulations of UMCJ quickly.
    As for the culture of the Army. . . IT’S PAINFUL!
    I’m a New Yorker: Commie-Liberal-Pinko-Baby Killing-Jesus Hating-Obama Loving-Fracker, according to some of my peers. For the most part I’m respected as a soldier, but my “liberal beliefs” are not catered to. Even when they should be, because of the Army’s Equal Opportunity Policy,EO. The Army’s EO policy bans discrimination and hate speech. I’ve never lived in an environment where there is so much hate speech used freely. Most of it is anti-homosexual, but quite a bit is racial. This may seem off topic, but it isn’t.
    The culture of the Army and Armed Forces is beyond the politically “conservative”. It’s traditional, as it the roots of the Uniform Code of Military Justice predates the United States Constitution, just as the United States Army predates the existence of the United States itself, with that whole war for independence and all. The UCMJ was updated in the last century, I believe it was post Viet Nam, but those core 18th century values held fast.
    Soldiers, Marines, Sailors, and Airmen sign away their constitutional rights when they enlist or take a commission. In exchange we get a nice paycheck, very good healthcare [unless you need and abortion], and a strict code of conduct that is not equally enforced thought the different branches and has differences at the basic unit level.
    UMCJ covers every facet of life. The most obvious and well known being appearance. The most controversial being a ban on sodomy, which results in “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”. Probably the most shocking to civilians being adultery, which is not uniformly enforced at all. My favorite is a ban on domestic violence which results in a dishonorable discharge from the service.
    As uniformed members of the armed service we’re held to a code of conduct and possible reprimand that exceeds the civilian courts. And we all volunteered to be held accountable and judged by it.

    But let’s get back to the culture of the Army, because that’s what I know best. Most of the soldiers in the Army are politically conservative, if they’re political. If they’re a-political, and a disappointingly large number of us are, they tend to have the “traditional” default american values and beliefs that are mainly skewed right.
    I’ve met many soldiers in the Army, predominately male, who believe that abortion is wrong. When pressured into a conversation they’ll accept that a pregnancy that risks the life of the mother, or is the product of rape or incest should be allowed. So these male soldiers, tacitly, agree with the Army’s policy. Which is no big surprise because that’s who writes the Army’s policy, and quite often enforces it.
    I’m also going to throw in there that these people also use “feminist” as a dirty word and will staunchly defend “don’t ask don’t tell” with such poor reasonings rather than just admit their homophobia.
    Back tracking to the Army’s generous policies toward pregnant soldiers. I believe that the unofficial, but functional, position of the Army is “pro-life”. As an institution that’s pro-life, someone persons were reasonable enough to support their policy with institutional benefits that encourage and support pregnant soldiers. That doesn’t quite soften the blow, but does cut back on some hypocrisy.

    I don’t know too much about the lived experience of female soldier who become pregnant while deployed.
    The only an anecdotal story I have is about a pregnant female who I knew while I was on rear detachment for our unit’s month long training exercise.
    Since she was pregnant the unit didn’t take her to California for the 30 day pre-deployment training. I didn’t go because of administrative issues.
    During our unit’s last deployment she became pregnant by not her, now, ex-husband. She was send back to the States and given an Article 15 [Non-Judicial Punishment] for adultery because she was not deployed with her husband. During the time that passed between these two deployments she decides to keep the baby, divorce her husband, marry the babie’s father, and have another child. Even though they’re both in the military they’re at ends meet.
    During the pre-deployment screening she finds out that she’s pregnant. Her husband and her Unit, administratively and socially, both know that she’s pregnant. I’m not sure if she confided in anyone else that she didn’t want to be pregnant. Her family was having financial problems and a new baby at this time, a new person to support, would deeply harm the family’s immediate and possible long term financial success. She was counting on this deployment, a year of tax free paychecks and almost $1000 in incentives, to get her family to be financially stable.
    Through the course of an afternoon we discussed her options and plans to get an abortion. I’m not sure if anyone else in our unit would have both approved of her plans and kept them secret, rumors and gossip in the military run rampant. She planned to have an abortion and use a “miscarriage” as a cover story. A few days after her abortion she was going to go to the Army clinic and lie about having a miscarriage so that it would be on her medical record. Since her husband and fellow soldiers were away this story would work without having to deal with any social backlash.
    It’s pretty terrible that this financially strapped soldier had to finagle a way to pay for her abortion out of pocket and use deceit so that she wouldn’t be a social pariah.
    It’s not a horror story like my Marine battlebuddy because my Army battlebuddy had access to a PlannedParenthood.
    Downrange we don’t have access to abortions, unless you have a good friend that’s a medic who can keep a secret.
    I can see “Amy” story happening. When it comes to rape in the Armed forces our track record for reporting it and prosecuting it is terrible. I have many women in key leadership positions in my direct and indirect chain of command. If I were ever sexually assaulted I would feel safe reporting it to my chain of command because I know an trust my leadership. I would say that most females in the Army, or Armed Forces, can’t say that.

  18. Also, thank you for all of the well wishing. I appreciate it on this Christmas Eve.
    Some intelligent conversation about this issue is the best present I could get out here ^.-

  19. ach, i didn’t refresh before adding my comment. jender asked it better than i did! PV2 ajws, again, thanks so much for sharing your first-hand experiences with us. and have a safe & happy holiday season!

  20. PV2 ajws: I hope you stay in touch. You can always use the “contact us” button to send us news or links to articles you think should be discussed and criticized. It’s a great outlet: don’t get mad, just go public, but with the protection of anonymity.

    Your comments evoke a very familiar picture. My father, brother and many of the men I knew as a child were Naval officers; accordingly, just about all the women were navy wives. It is a different society.

  21. PV2 Ajw thank you for your elaboration, and I wish you well.
    What the previous posters said, do stay in touch… and keep up the good work!

  22. If they get pregnant in theater, what are their alternatives?
    Abortion, adoption, blackmarket babies as an alternative
    to abortion? What choice!

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