Pregnant in combat? Not anymore…

Female Marines in the Lioness program, Al Asad, Iraq

The top U.S. commander in Iraq, Major General Anthony Cucolo passed a new policy which may mean time in the brig for soldiers, airmen, and Marines who become pregnant while on active duty in a combat zone. This issue presents so many moral, tactical, and ethical problems I can’t possibly cover them all.

There is the issue of personal freedom, the issue of husband and wife deployed together, the issue of rape, the issue of accidental pregnancy…

Where do we draw the line? Let’s talk about the nature of military service.

Service in the military means that you are not a private citizen any longer. It costs roughly $250,000 to basically train a soldier or Marine for combat in an infantry role. Female soldiers are usually trained for other jobs, some of which may cost substantially more to train for. Example, aircraft mechanic. To be a fixed wing aircraft mechanic you must attend basic training, combat training at the school of infantry, a qualified “A” school, and a qualified “C” school. You’ll have to enlist for five years, not four, just so you can spend a year training on multi-million dollar equipment.

The Marine Corps invests a lot of money in these personnel, and it has the smallest budget out of all the nation’s military. The phrase drilled into my head during boot camp comes to mind… “The first mission of the Marine Corps is to fight and win wars! The second mission of the Marine Corps is troop welfare!”

It’s true. In that order.

In a combat zone, there are many personal freedoms that are given up, freedoms that are taken for granted by the rest of society. Like drinking alcohol. Caught drinking alcohol will get you into some serious trouble. Maybe NJP (non-judicial punishment) or a court martial for dereliction of duty. You see, it’s your duty to stay in condition to fight and defend yourself, your brothers in arms, and your country.

One could argue that becoming pregnant is dereliction of duty, since it is preventable.

The policy takes into account the act of rape, which if resulting in pregnancy is not prosecutable. Thank God. Sexual harassment is a real problem within the ranks of military, and it’s easy to see why. Testosterone fueled bands of men who have been in combat for a few months—out of contact with women—are going to have a libido like you wouldn’t believe when they get back to a non-hostile environment. They’ve been living off adrenaline and rage. Rape might be something completely attainable to a man who has killed on the field of battle, although rare in my experience.

Regardless, rape is an atrocious crime and should carry the worst of sentences, in my opinion.

The policy also is directed at men and women who are married and deployed together. While not banning sex between couples who are married, it is still prosecutable in the event that the woman becomes pregnant. Her husband would also face time in the brig. Of course, it just makes me wonder what HAPPENS TO THE CHILD?

I can’t say whether or not I agree with the policy. I’m not sure. I do know that many of the seemingly ridiculous rules in place in our nations military become that way because there was enough of it going on to warrant a change.

This new directive about pregnancy means interesting things for different branches of service. The Army is the only branch of service that deploys it’s troops for thirteen months. At about month six, you get a two week R&R where you go home and relax for a few. Well, what if you happen to become pregnant while home on R&R? I’m pretty sure that whoever your special someone is that hasn’t seen you in six months may want a little intimate time. Who’s to say that you didn’t do it on purpose so you could come home?

That’s exactly where the policy will fail. The Army cannot say for certain whether you got pregnant on accident or on purpose, and this policy is enacted in a way that decides that it is prosecutable either way. I can understand becoming pregnant while deployed being an issue, but while home on R&R, officially on leave, what’s the issue?

It’s hard to say how this policy will affect the way business is conducted overseas. Pregnancy is not nly something that can be potentially harmful to ones self in a combat zone, but it’s also potentially harmful to everyone around you, a status much different than being pregnant here in the United States.

Like the old Marine Corps adage, it’s mission is to fight and win wars.


  1. this was an interesting read. I have a lot of respect and admiration for the Marines, also for females serving in the U.S military. I have always wondered how the pregnancy issue needs to be dealed with.

    Do the Army and the Marine Corps offer birth control for both males and females? It would help a lot, no?

    your blog is great, by the way. I’ll be reading your other posts :-]

  2. I see no problem with the policy. War is not kind.

  3. Hey!
    I am currently serving in the Canadian Armed Forces, and while the situation I am in [a female in the navy] is quite different than an active combat role, I can see the dangers of pregnancy in the field. Especially since our military has no limits to what trade a female may have. However, being jailed for becoming pregnant seems quite harsh and a little one sided, though obviously they’re not going to jail all the men who get their wives/girlfriends/one nighters pregnant. Tricky situation – hopefully I won’t ever find myself one like that. lol.

  4. Thank you for the great article. Happy New Years!!.

  5. I have a great deal of respect for men in the military. Especially those who have been sent to Iraq, Afghanistan etc. I am a woman myself, but my opinion is women should not be deployed to a war zone. Not because I don’t think we are capable of dealing with the stress etc. The problem comes in with the fact that these women, and I am quoting my fiance who is currently serving in Iraq, are like rental cars.

  6. As the Mother of a female soldier, I was relieved to know that the Army was issuing birth control during her deployment.

    This is an informative article and I hope to read more from you.

  7. This is a problem we discussed often when I was active duty (I am a retired Chief Petty Officer, USN). There are so many things you give up when you raise your right hand and solemnly swear….. When you go into harms way, even if you aren’t in direct combat, you are supporting those who are in direct combat. They deserve the very best of your professional demeanor. That means, just like you give up some of your rights to freedom of speech and such, you also give up the right to “do whatever you want with your body….” One of my jobs, as a Sonar Technician, in the event that a sub got inside the ASW screen, was to direct my ship into the path of the torpedo to take the hit instead of the high value target. So it is with what some consider one of the most inalienable rights a woman has, over her body, or a guy has in having a relationship with the opposite sex, you must lay it down when in a war zone. Most civilians don’t understand this, but, then, most civilians don’t really understand what motivates someone to jump on a grenade for a brother (or sister) in uniform, either.

  8. Sorry to be the rain giver, but orders are orders. the biggest problem I see with the Military today…Inclunding My Marine Corps is the lack of overall disclipline…mind you the Corps holds the title for best discliplined, but when you are in the military and you get pregnant, there are too many case where you cnnot do your job. you should be discharged on a medical with benefits until the child is born. At that time, you can apply for unemployment. The Corps did not issue you a child/family in your seabag, if that is what you want then ask for your DD214 and get out. You cannot effectly do your job… especially as a single parent, This is applicable to Males and Females. so there is no gender issue here. Got a child, cannot deply…get out.

  9. What about those whose religious beliefs are against taking birth control? Then pregnancy really isn’t preventable is it? Isn’t it up to whatever higher being in which you believe whether or not you and your husband will have a child and when? Lastly, are we as a nation really going to go as far as to make a law or policy about EVERYTHING in life? It’s no wonder people become less and less self-sufficient.

    • I never thought of that point, though the withdrawal method has worked well enough for millenia. The issue isn’t US policy against the civilian individual, it’s about the soldier, the sailor, the Marine, and the airman who have taken an oath to defend this country from all enemies, and have signed away certain rights. One of those rights is now in contention in this issue. Of course, the way of things in the military is that they make these rules only when it starts to become a problem. As we always said, “It only takes one idiot to change things.”

  10. How interesting. As a woman, I feel like it’s my duty to protect and fight for women’s rights, including women serving in the military. But this is just one of the situations that can become tricky when women are serving. From a female point of view, it would be unfair to not allow women in the military to serve or to punish them for being a woman (i.e. having a child – whether accidental or on purpose). However, the military does have a purpose and you’re right, these servicemembers are not free to do whatever they want. It’s quite an issue at hand…

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