23 December 2009

Deployed and Pregnant--Update

Quick update--I had the opportunity to guest-blog over at Tom Ricks' The Best Defense yesterday regarding the latest news of potential courts-martial for female Soldiers who become pregnant while deployed. I appreciate all who took the time to weigh in on the issue. The fact that it's only gotten five replies is probably due to the lull in posting around Christmas, but it also has the added benefit of not attracting the required the trolls who might turn it into misogynist bash-fest.

I'd like to take some time to consolidate some comments I received.

Kayla Williams (author of "Love My Rifle More Than You") brought up an interesting counter-point to the sexual assault argument I mentioned:

There is only one thing that bothered me about your post: "3.) If a female is facing court-martial for pregnancy, might she cry 'rape'?"

For all women there is a significant stigma about coming forward about sexual assault. This is particularly true in the military, which has a very poor record of successfully prosecuting perpetrators. Sadly, my fear is that the point you raise could actually have the opposite effect of your concern: fear that this will be the response and they will not be believed may further inhibit women from coming forward if they have been raped.

Interesting point. I think there's truth to both sides of the argument, to be perfectly honest.

Next good point came from a poster known as TTC, who weighed in on the legal aspects of the ban.

The word "court-martial" is a red herring.

Every lawful order can be enforced with a court-martial, but few are. Almost all violations of GO1 (pornography, alcohol, etc.) are punished with, at most, non-judicial punishment (and Art 15). Even if a violation of GO1 made it to a court-martial, the punishment would be laughably minute.

The more I read about the policy, the more I realize the legal aspects of it. The media has used the term "court-martial" quite a bit, I think due to relative ignorance of the entire ins-and-outs of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. To be certain, pregnancy appears to fall under General Order #1, which bans--as TTC mentions--porn and alcohol. Violating any general order opens one's self to the possibility of court-martial, although it will probably go to the Article 15 level--meaning letters of reprimand, loss of rank and pay. Indeed, even punishment might be a bit of an idle threat, based on some of the convictions we've seen so far.

Further comments? Head over to Tom Ricks' blog and comment...


Peter said...

Article 15 is a part of the Uniform Code of Military Justice that allows non-judicial punishment to be imposed by a service member's commanding officer. In the de jure sense the infractions that could be punished under Article 15 could also result in a court martial, but de facto an "Article 15" as they are called is regarded as being for more trivial offenses than those which would warrant a court martial. Cowardice in the face of the enemy might be punished by a court martial but failure to get a haircut would probably result in an Article 15. Most of the news media reports of this pregnancy story failed to make note of the difference between the two.

Peter said...

War zone pregnancy punishments being dropped

AP foreign, Friday December 25 2009

WASHINGTON (AP) A recent military policy that added pregnancy to the list of reasons a soldier could be disciplined in a war zone will be rescinded by a new order drafted by the top U.S. commander in Iraq.

Gen. Raymond Odierno has drafted a broad new policy for the U.S. forces in Iraq that will take effect Jan. 1, and that order will not include a controversial pregnancy provision that one of his subordinate commanders enacted last month, according to the U.S. military command in Iraq.

Odierno's order comes about a week after the pregnancy policy issued by Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo triggered a storm of criticism. Cucolo had issued a policy that would allow soldiers who become pregnant and their sexual partners to be punished.

The order listed a variety of offenses, and the punishments for them could range from minor discipline to a court-martial. But in a conference call with reporters earlier this week, Cucolo said he would never actually seek to jail someone over the pregnancy provision.

And he said the policy was intended to emphasize the problems created when pregnant soldiers go home and leave behind a weaker unit.

U.S. military leaders in Iraq conducted a full review of all existing orders as part of the ongoing transition in Iraq, and a new general order has been drafted. The order would consolidate several general orders from the U.S. commanders across Iraq. That policy, the military said Thursday, will not include the pregnancy provision.

Previously, the commanders have had the authority to draft their own restrictions.

Starbuck said...

Thanks for the updates!

You know, regardless of one's position on the pregnancy clause, General Odierno did the right thing standardizing General Order #1 over all of Iraq.

Anonymous said...