Friday, December 25, 2009

Pregnant Soldiers

So this briefly made news recently. Apparently a general decided to implement some fairly restrictive rules on sex between soldiers. Or, more specifically, rules on the side effects of sex between soldiers. And, of course, the National Organization for Women is up in arms over the Army telling women to be responsible. (And the men, who are also being held accountable should the female in question identify who it was that got her pregnant).

At least I think they are, because based on the limited comments Terry O'Neill has made in interviews, they just think "it's a dumb idea":

"Well, it may be his prerogative to be dumb, but that's really not a very good idea."

"It's a dumb move. You don't punish women for becoming pregnant."

"clearly wrongheaded and stupid"

It's so good that Ms. O'Neill can express the problems with punishing soldiers for getting pregnant and getting themselves out of deployments. Oh - and by thus utilizing such an "out" creating negative stereotypes about women's ability to perform equally with their male counterparts in the Army.

Now, many of the issues raised by this order are valid, and need to be discussed. Although we don't have a draft at the moment, someday we might, and the equation of citizenship and service is one that goes back to the ancient Greeks. It has been persuasively argued by a number of feminist theorists that the cultural associations between service, and especially military service, and full acceptance and citizenship are pretty strongly linked. This is one of the reasons why having women in the military is such an important point. The last time a draft was instituted in this country, women were barely allowed into the military, let alone near combat. Now, women are serving everywhere but combat (and that only technically - there are women riding in turrets, performing patrols, and putting themselves at risk every single day alongside their male brethren).

If we do re-institute a draft, the question of women, and frankly, pregnancy, will have to be addressed. If women are eligible for the draft, will pregnancy disqualify them from service? If so, what are the implications of a woman getting deliberately pregnant to avoid compulsory service? What if a woman gets pregnant to avoid the draft, and then later gets an abortion - will that return her to draft status, qualify as a criminal offense? If so, will women be more likely to carry a child to term, producing an un- or under-wanted child?

And how all of those concerns will affect the current precarious position of abortion rights in the United States is anyone's guess.

Luckily, though, the United States military is still an All-Volunteer force. And one of the elements of volunteering is the understanding that a recruit surrenders certain rights for the eight years of their Military Service Obligation. Completely honestly, I think one of the rights female soldiers should be required to give up is the choice over whether or not to get pregnant. Mandatory birth control of some sort, followed by (for example) punishment for failing to obey an order.


Momagain said...

I'm curious - how would you enforce your "solution" and what sort of punishment would you suggest? Surely kicking them out of the military wouldn't help with the dilemma. No matter what punishment you come up with, if they got pregnant with the specific intent to avoid service, almost any punishment isn't going to achieve a desired result. Perhaps the fathers should have to conduct classes in the use of a condom while the mother sits in a corner breastfeeding the newborn. And don't forget the scarlet A on her forehead.

Iraqi Bootleg said...

Court-martial them.

As I said - you join the Army, you surrender certain rights, and many of the rights you surrender involve what you get to do with your body (eating, sleeping, waste management). Again, if this comes down to equality, there shouldn't be any special rights attributed to specifically female functions.

And frankly, something like Depo would alleviate one of the arguments against women in combat - no more worries about special hygiene control...