Should you get pregnant in the army?

“I have female soldiers in absolutely critical specialties and becoming pregnant takes them out of the fight…And so that’s my message to the females – think before you do something, because I need you.”

That’s the line from General Anthony Cucolo, who commands US forces in northern Iraq – get pregnant on his team and face the risk of being sent to court or prison. And that goes for married couples too. He defended his position on the BBC a few days ago, opening up a whole tin of ethical concerns.

Is this too harsh? Is the army just a normal job? Or should your duty to see the mission through and therefore the need to remain fit and healthy come before your personal life?

39 Responses to “Should you get pregnant in the army?”

  1. December 21, 2009 at 11:52

    The Iraq war has become a shame for most Americans including soldiers who have no choice but to follow the commanding orders of the superiorsfor war in Iraq against their wish. In June , 2006 a Fort Lewis Soldier Lt. Ehren Watada of the Stryker Brigade Refused To Go To Iraq, stating it was an unjust war. Anti-war groups rallied to his defense though he was court marshaled.

    Some soldiers may not be that arrogant, but would always find a way of beating the military command system, and for some it was pregnancy as a escape goat. Unfortunately, they have been caught my their commander. I can only advise them to find anther escape goat because fighting a war or doing anything against your wish is the biggest battle of ones` life.

    In other words the commander in as far as fighting His war in Iraq is right to stop baby making in war zone to prevent mass exodus of his troops. However there is no such a thing as putting love on hold: instead he should say lovers and couples should take precautions to prevent pregnancy.

  2. 2 claudine
    December 21, 2009 at 11:56

    Guys are the lucky ones.
    They can have sex every day and still continue fighting.
    Girls cant afford that luxury.
    Besides, I am are against women in the army. Men are the aggressive ones. Let only them fight and all problems solved.

    • 3 Linda from Italy
      December 21, 2009 at 12:57

      @ Claudine
      Can’t help agreeing with you about finding it very odd that any woman would seriously want to work in such a brutal hierarchical organisation as an army in which orders must be obeyed no matter how daft or inhuman but then I suppose you could say working in the finance industry is rather akin to that 😉

  3. 4 kathy o'keefe
    December 21, 2009 at 11:58

    General before any female soldiers sign up you must give them this condition no sex allow because birth contros are not 100% plus if females soldiers can’t have sex to be equal the male soldiers can’t have sex either, we will see how many recruits you get. LOL get out of the dark age General

  4. 5 Roberto
    December 21, 2009 at 12:14

    RE “” Is the army just a normal job? “”

    ———– Is a terrible question really a question, or just a technical point of rhetoric?

    With women and gays starting to identify themselves and enter military service in quantifiable numbers, traditional military policies are disrupted.

    It’s not breaking news that wherever women go, the risk of pregnancy follows. Some women handle the risk better than others, again, not breaking news, although I sure enterprising “social scientists” can hornswaggle grant monies to conduct “studies.”.

    • 6 Linda from Italy
      December 21, 2009 at 13:16

      @ Roberto
      Logical conclusion of your argument – the risk of pregnancy only follows women around if they have sex with men, sooooooo why not make the army compulsorily 100% homosexual – voila no problem!
      P.S. Why is it only women who have to “handle” the risk of pregnancy?

  5. 7 Nigel
    December 21, 2009 at 12:16

    Young men and women in close quarters “doing what comes naturally.” A price the generals will have to pay for having mixed gender armed forces.

  6. 8 Linda from Italy
    December 21, 2009 at 12:49

    This is just the same tired old argument used in the past (and sometimes still) by employers for refusing to employ women of child bearing age, or for employing them on inferior terms.
    Working in the armed forces is indeed just another job, albeit a nasty, dangerous one. No one raises this objection (I hope) any longer about women police officers who arguably do an even more vital security job, or health workers for that matter.
    Last time I looked, and medical hi-tech aside, it took 2 people to “get” someone pregnant, one of these being a man and if the condom he is (I hope) wearing, breaks, rather than a failure of female contraception, shouldn’t he end up in clink, up before the firing squad or face whatever punishment this mad old general cares to devise?

  7. 9 Jennifer
    December 21, 2009 at 14:22

    I can’t believe anyone would say that a woman can not be just as aggressive as a guy. Of course the stereotype is that women are more “emotional”. However, I see no reason at all that women have to “leave” serving in the army to men because they are “the aggressive ones”.

    I think it takes 2 people for a woman to get pregnant. However, a woman is 100% in control of her body and I really believe it’s not a good idea to get pregnant while on active duty. It would make a dangerous situation much more dangerous.

  8. 10 patti in cape coral
    December 21, 2009 at 14:25

    I also have a hard time understanding why a women would want to be a soldier (or a man, actually), but that’s besides the point. There is no fail-proof birth control method except for sterilization, and even then I have heard of cases where it didn’t work for whatever reason. So court or prison for getting pregnant? What happens to the father for putting a much-needed soldier out of commission?

    • 11 Jennifer
      December 21, 2009 at 15:05

      There is abstinence Patti. And, yes, it works. It’s scary to push for sterilization. But it may be the underlying push for in this for some. We need to go back to giving people the ability to be self determined. They need to learn to be responsible.

  9. 12 patti in cape coral
    December 21, 2009 at 15:32

    Hi Jennifer – I agree with what you have said, but abstinence works 100% of the time only for those that are abstinent 100% of the time. I don’t see many young, healthy soldiers in their sexual prime being abstinent. People get married much later in life nowadays, makes it that much harder to be abstinent until you find “the one.”

    • 13 Jennifer
      December 21, 2009 at 16:03


      We are not cavepeople. People need to learn to think and consider the consequences before they do something. With all of the risks out there; I don’t think it’s imposing or difficult. I don’t think people are incapable; even those in their “sexual prime”!!! haha Asking someone to choose sterilization is rather absolute; even for “young, healthy soliders”. haha

      I see sterilization as a huge abuse. I would never advocate for it unless the individual was 100% willing and not shoeboxed into it for some external reason; such as a job.

      Would you be ok with having a sterilization requirement for those who enter the army/military service?

      • 14 patti in cape coral
        December 21, 2009 at 17:10

        Jennifer- I’m not in favor of sterilization at all, except for those who want it. I don’t think it is something the army should require of either their male or female soldiers. In that, I think we agree.

        However, I don’t think that giving in to sexual impulses necessarily make us “cave people.” We all try to think and consider consequences before we do things, but obviously, we don’t always succeed. People get caught up in the moment, young and old. I can’t say I know how a soldier feels, but I would imagine facing the fear of death, witnessing carnage, lonliness, etc., might make someone look for comfort in those closest to them. The reality is that no matter how much you would like it not to be true, despite the risks out there, people are having lots of premarital sex and unprotected sex, including soldiers.

        I don’t necessarily think that promoting abstinence is wrong, just largely ineffective.

  10. December 21, 2009 at 15:41

    There is no logical reason for not allowing women in the armed forces, and I have known a few who would be damn fine warriors on the front lines. Anyone ever heard of the great Amazon warrior women? That being said, when one signs up for the military, they are told in no uncertain terms what to expect. If a woman does get pregnant, then she should be allowed the natal term off, but once she has given birth and is medically fit for deployment, I see no reason for her to attempt to circumvent those orders. There is no absolute answer, just as with everything about life, but in generalities, don’t sign up for the military period if you might not be able to release your newborn child to the care of a loved one or friend.

  11. 16 t
    December 21, 2009 at 16:41

    Here’s the irony in this situation.

    In the U.S. military they have Tri-Care (universal health care). All of your treatment is done free of charge. If you have a family, the same thing.

    Yet, for civilian women, pregnancy is a “pre-existing” condition. Which means you can be denied health care. Does the “no-sex” rule also apply to civilians then as well? You won’t get coverage. So forget about ever being a parent? And, for those who instantly say no problem just adopt, that’s missing the point.

  12. 17 Tom K in Mpls
    December 21, 2009 at 17:10

    This is too funny and wrong in so many ways. A few highlights. Laws controlling that level of personal life is wrong. Scamming to get out of a contract is wrong. Creating life to escape a bad choice is wrong. The government forcing people to act far beyond their belief of right and wrong, is wrong.

    This is a bad situation with *no* right answers.

  13. 18 Jennifer
    December 21, 2009 at 17:43

    Re: The reality is that no matter how much you would like it not to be true, despite the risks out there, people are having lots of premarital sex and unprotected sex, including soldiers.


    You said that sterilization is the only “fool proof” birth control method. That seemed to me as if you were endorsing it or seeing it as a “safety net”. It’s not; abstinence is! It prevents pregnancy and the spread of sexually transmitted disease completely. Until people realize that they will rely heavily on pills, patches, shots, to prevent pregnancy.

    Birth control is ineffective when you consider how it is misused by women who have access to it.

    Tom brought up many good points. This is kind of a funny topic. 🙂

  14. 19 Anthony
    December 21, 2009 at 18:10

    Every month, each woman in the U.S. army MUST get their birth control shot. Thats how I would have it.

    -Anthony, LA, CA

  15. 20 Tara Ballance, Montreal Canada
    December 21, 2009 at 18:55

    I suspect there’s a much bigger issue in the military with female personnel being sexually harrassed and raped by their fellow soldiers than there is with them becoming pregnant.

    Perhaps the answer is to chemically castrate all service personnel for the duration of their military service. No pregnancies, no rapes. No problem…

  16. 21 Michelle from Jamaica
    December 21, 2009 at 19:45

    Let the men do all the fighting, they’re built for it. We females will build the weapons. I don’t want to be involved in any conflict whatsoever. We are the gentlier sex. Let us lobby for world peace and encourage our men to stop fighting, rather than joining the fight.

  17. 22 John LaGrua/New York
    December 21, 2009 at 19:50

    These young people are being sent into a meat grinder by politicians who are either fools or knaves They are all getting shagged irrespective of gender. We are shamefully allowing this horrible charade in Afghanistan and Iraq to go on.squandering our youth ,leaving the surviviors to cope with life long scars.The women who volunteer for combat duty must be aware that such environment engages the most primative of human characterisics to which they are by nature most vulnerable.Their courage is laudable but realism might serve them better.

  18. 23 scmehta
    December 22, 2009 at 14:07

    Wherever it be, the basic human instincts are just about the same. But, the fighting forces, on the field duties, just cannot afford pregnancies to take priority over exigencies. As a matter of fact, it’s wrong, absolutely wrong, to allow the female incumbents to take part in prolonged and active field duties; just asking them to not get pregnant there (like the general’s call of caution) will be like promoting use of condoms.

  19. 24 A R Shams
    December 22, 2009 at 16:23

    Married women in the soldiership job too have chances of being pregnant and during war etc. It becomes difficult for them in case that really happens to them while on duty during wartime, as such married women who can become pregnant may be cared not to send on duty in the warfield or their marital status can be marked as single on selection.

  20. 25 duckpocket
    December 22, 2009 at 16:24

    How’s about a deal?

    If you get pregnant in the army, your offspring have to join it at a later date.

  21. December 22, 2009 at 21:23

    @Tom K in Mpls – I like your reply.

    One additional clarification – NPR ran this story yesterday also, and the general commented that both male and female troops would be held responsible for any pregnancy that resulted in the removal of a troop from the field of engagement. http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2009/12/pregnant_soldiers_courtmartial.html

    The army is, at this point, not staffed by draftees. It seems that anyone who had issues with this policy could exit the army, or decline to enter it. And the general is not getting the troop increase requested (moral issues of whether he should being outside of the scope of this discussion). He’s got an HR problem, and he’s got to figure out how not to lose the troops he has.

    1. Abstinence works. 2. Birth control is available. 3. There are morning-after treatments for contraception failures. 4. Abortion is legal for US citizens (moral issues being outside of the scope of this discussion, it is still legal). So the general is informing the troops that they need to make plans to handle this personal area in whatever matter suits them. For example, if morally they would not want to face option 4, then they’d better choose some combination of 1, 2 and 3 to work for them.

  22. 27 John (US ARMY vet)
    December 23, 2009 at 02:50

    When you join the US military, you basically give up some of your rights for the common good. ANYTHING you do that makes you “mission incapable” makes you a liability to yourself and your fellow soldiers. Mission incapable= casualty (not dead, just- mission incapable= not being able to do your job, therefore a liability). Like, if you get a tattoo that gets infected and causes you not to be able to do your job – you are mission incapable, (and by defintion, descreting government property).
    When you do something that endangers your own life, that’s your choice, and it may affect your unit’s effectiveness. When you do something that endangers MY life and your unit’s effectiveness, you are clearly not living up to your military oath. That includes the “it takes two”. Yes, I know I’m asking alot, but you are a soldier and live up to a higher code. You took an oath (a promise) to do that and that is what I expect. If your aren’t able to do your job, for whatever reason – YOU ARE A LIABILITY!! and put everyone else at risk!!
    Many of you will tell me, I’m not fair. But, this isn’t a pretty office job. Both men and women should both be held responsible. It’s called “personal responsibility” and not a concept most people are comfortable with. When your actions affect others – YOU ARE RESPONSIBLE.
    I’m not sure a mixed gender military is the best idea, but I will not deny a woman’s right to serve her country. It has consequences that I’m not sure of the answer either.
    But, “mission incapable” means “mission incapable”.

    • 28 Thomas J
      December 25, 2009 at 16:18

      “It’s called “personal responsibility” and not a concept most people are comfortable with. ”

      I agree 100% Don’t care how or why it happened if it were consensual.

      Before any female in the military goes downrange, they know not to get pregnant. At the very least getting pregnant while deployed should be looked at as violation of General Order number 1.

      Consensual sex is deliberately disobeying an order,
      getting pregnant is a way of getting caught…
      so lesson learned… wrap it up!

      • 29 Tom K in Mpls
        December 26, 2009 at 19:25

        Thomas J, that last paragraph is so totally wrong. In the military, consensual sex is only wrong when it violates regulations pertaining to segregation of rank. Anyone not willing to take action to end an unwanted pregnancy in the military should abstain. To use pregnancy to get out of contractual obligations for any reason is what the topic is about. It is not a tool to be used by those unwilling to complete their obligation.

  23. 30 Insan Mukmin
    December 23, 2009 at 03:20

    The presence of women on the battlefields is a shameful thing. Al-Qaeda uses women suicide bombers because they are less likely to be frisked. The US sends women soldiers to war because they believe in equal rights. But are men and women really equal? Women are more likely to die on the battlefield because women are physically weaker (lack of testosterone) and have motherly instincts preventing them from ruthless killing. Only women get pregnant which means that they will be the ones to suffer humiliation. A pregnant female soldier will have to give a detailed history of her sexual encounters and name all the men she slept with. This will publicly force her to admit that she is promiscuous. Her right to privacy is being compromised. Yet male soldiers will not have to divulge their sexual history because they are not the ones getting pregnant.

    • 31 Jennifer
      December 23, 2009 at 14:37

      Re: A pregnant female soldier will have to give a detailed history of her sexual encounters and name all the men she slept with. This will publicly force her to admit that she is promiscuous.

      Wow! So, female soldiers who are married are “promiscuous”?

      Lets hope a woman wouldn’t have a problem divulging who she has slept with. However, if she does it’s on her.

      “The presence of women on the battlefields is a shameful thing.”

      Women doesn’t need to be protected from “shameful” things.

  24. 32 patti in cape coral
    December 23, 2009 at 17:14

    Did I miss something? Pregnant soldiers will have to give a detailed history of their sexual encounters and name all the men they slept with? I can’t see that ever being tolerated, that is private information, and I can’t see men or women agreeing to that. I don’t think the military will require it either, they can’t afford to lose soldiers right now.

  25. 33 John (US ARMY vet)
    December 23, 2009 at 20:41

    I agree w/ ejly. You have personal choices to make with both have personal and personnel consequences. As a father, I would prefer you not choose option 4. You needed to make better choices way before.
    You are right, noone is drafted into service these days. You made your choice, signed your contract (of your own free will). Now do what you said you would do, we’re all counting on you. If you don’t want to do that, 1) you shouldn’t have enlisted in the first place and 2) you have not lived up to your contract and shouldn’t be surprised if they de-activate you and then re-activate after you have your baby. Life is precious and I hope you will consider the consequences of your actions before you take the “action”.
    In a peacetime environment, this is very different. But, when you are deployed, your fellow soldiers are counting on you to hold yourself to the highest standards. Set the standard, don’t slide by with what you can get away with. If you CHOOSE to have sex, protect yourself and your fellow soldiers and realize that it’s not the environment in which you want to bring a child. Noone will benefit. Wait until you get home.
    May God bless our troops!! They are doing a job most do not want to do or are unwilling. But, they chose that job and need to understand what that means.
    I pray for their safety.

  26. 34 John (US ARMY vet)
    December 23, 2009 at 20:45

    By the way, if you do get pregnant just to get out of your deployment, you DO NOT have my respect nor the respect of most.

  27. 35 Maxine
    December 24, 2009 at 02:47

    What madness it all is! Let the men be soldiers – it’s men who start them.

  28. 37 James Ian
    December 24, 2009 at 10:25

    What good are you if you can’t do your work. I wonder how many women get pregnant to get out of the fight.

  29. 38 Thomas J
    December 25, 2009 at 15:04

    I am in the army and I have the utmost respect for my sisters in service. As most people in the military will agree, there are a lot of inconsistencies between what the military looks like on paper and how daily business is conducted. For example, there are specific regulations that allow a female soldier to discharge honorably due to becoming pregnant. Unfortunately the spirit of this regulation has all but vanished and the regulation is being abused. I apologize to anyone who has used and not abused the policy; however, I am speaking from what I have witnessed. I’ve been in the army for four years and it has become a NORM for SOME females to become pregnant or contemplate becoming pregnant on purpose to get out of the military. It has also become the NORM for SOME females to attempt to get pregnant as soon as they catch wind of an upcoming deployment; they decide to stay in the military, but just want to dodge a deployment.
    I deployed to Afghanistan in 2007, I witnessed four soldiers who all worked in the same office get pregnant and dodge that deployment. They were bragging and playfully “rubbing it in” to other soldiers that they were going to “get out of this deployment.” I’d estimate about 30 percent or more of females in the military have, at a minimum, contemplated getting pregnant to miss a deployment or separate from service. MG Cucolo is the first person to take action against the unfair “failsafe” females have at their disposal when they don’t want to be deployed, or don’t want to be in the military anymore.
    I understand there is no genuine way to legally PROVE if a soldier got pregnant for a specific reason, therefore, the military’s hands is tied. However, if a soldier has made it to the combat zone without being pregnant, and has unprotected consensual sex while in the combat zone, it is not unreasonable to believe she got pregnant purposely.

  30. February 19, 2010 at 05:54

    Ok i am a woman serving in the military… Equality!! Im proud to serve my country and i don’t need something long in between my legs to be brave enough and tough enough to risk my life for the safety of the ppl in the United States. If a Women wants to get pregnant then let her get pregnant but she should have planned it and have an approval of some sort. She doesn’t have to be discharged that is just not fair.

    Also about homosexuals in the military i say let them in.. if they have the guts to look out for all of you they should be giving that chance… OH and yea i have gay friends..seriously guys get over your selves not every gay man or women is going to go after you im sure if they know ur not gay they will stay away

    if ppl are capable and willing to serve their country let them be.. because a hero should not be denied of being a hero.. whether they are gay or females//

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