Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo III, a commander in northern Iraq,has made pregnancy among troops serving in Iraq a punishable offense and one that could lead to court martial.  The order applies not only to females but to the male who impregnated them. 

The reason for such a drastic measure is to ensure that someone else doesn’t have to cover for the pregnant woman.  Military experts have said that Major General Cucolo is perfectly within his rights to make such a order.  The order also applies to civilians reporting to the general.  Heretofore, pregnant soldiers were sent home, often leaving a duty uncovered.  The slack had to be taken up by others. 

According to AKnews

Army spokesman George Wright said the service typically sends home from the battlefield soldiers who become pregnant. But it is not an Army-wide policy to punish them under the military’s legal code, he said.  However, division commanders like Cucolo have the authority to impose these type of restrictions to personnel operating under their command, Wright said.

Cucolo oversees forces in northern Iraq, an area that includes the cities of Kirkuk, Tikrit and Mosul. His Nov. 4 order was first reported by the military newspaper Stars and Stripes.  Cucolo’s order outlines some 20 barred activities. Most of them are aimed at keeping order and preventing criminal activity, such as selling a weapon or taking drugs.

But other restrictions seemed aimed at preventing soldiers from leaving their unit short-handed, including becoming pregnant or undergoing elective surgery that would prevent their deployment.
Under Cucolo’s order, troops also are prohibited from “sexual contact of any kind” with Iraqi nationals. And, they cannot spend the night with a member of the opposite sex, unless married or expressly permitted to do so.

Stars and Stripes reports that thus far, 7 soldiers have been punished under the 6 week pregnancy ban.  None to date have been court-martialed, however.  According to ABC sources, Major General Cucolo states:

“I see absolutely no circumstance where I would punish a female soldier by court martial for a violation … none,” Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo III wrote to ABC News in an exclusive statement. ” I fully intend to handle these cases through lesser disciplinary action.”


Supposedly the ban applied even to married soldiers. The National Organization of Women has expressed their outrage over this order. 

Is pregnancy sacrosanct?  Is appears that the General has made every effort to apply the order as equitably as possible.  Do the troops have access to safe, reliable contraception?   Should women be outraged?  Should men be held accountable or more accurately, can men be held accountable?  Do women ever use pregnacy as an excuse to be sent home?

There are many unanswered questions out there.  Many of our readers and contributors are ex-military or retired military.  How do the men see this order?  If you are serving along side a male counterpart, does the military have the right to hold you to this order?  Does the order apply to all branches of the service or just civilians and soldiers reporting to Major Gen. Cucolo?

44 Thoughts to “Pregnancy Becomes Punishable Offense in Iraq”

  1. I am going to kick this one out of the gate, mainly because of the sensitivity of the issue. I don’t want our male contributors to be too gentle about contributing to this discussion.

    I am going to say that right now I think Major General Cucolo is perfectly within his rights if and only if the women have access to safe, reliable and CONFIDENTIAL birth control from the army pharmacy. I would change my mind instantly if they did not have access to bc or if someone ratted to the general who was and was not buying birth control. I would also hope the males were held equally accountable.

    On the other hand, as my parents and grandmother told me growing up–women get pregnant and men do not. Until that changes, the burden of responsibility is on you because you will own the problem.

    Another question here, is abortion accessible in the field in the military now? It used to change back and forth each time administration changed. I simply do not know, and I should know.

  2. 1. This policy will encourage women to jeapordize (I can never spell that word) their health and the health of their babies.

    2. This policy is a frightening attempt to control reproduction under military rule.

    3. This policy is anti-family and anti-woman.

    Send them home, yes. Prosecute? NO WAY.

  3. hello

    There is a difference Pinko, if I’m not mistaken this only applies to women in combat zones. By your logic just by even having women in combat zones is anti-family, anti-woman and puts their health in jeopardy.

    I can understand where this general is coming from, if your in a combat zone and a fellow soldier gets pregnant and has to leave it puts everyone else’s health in jeopardy.

  4. Pinko, how do you think this helps women achieve equal rights if they get pregnant and leave their responsibilities to someone else?

    That is what kept women my age from graduating college and going into a profession. The thought was, we will spend all this money on training and they will go right out, get married (that was done back in the day) and they will get pregnant and we are out of a worker. Thus, women college graduates often went to work for companies like IBM and Kodak in the secretarial pool. Nothing wrong with that if that’s what you wanted to do. Everything wrong with that if you had higher aspirations in a company.

    What you are advocating totally reinforces that old feeling. Women need to not get pregnant if they are in Iraq. I am willing to enforce this (mentally of course) if they have access to every other medical service American women have stateside.

  5. Hello, the earth will spin backwards today. I agree. It jeopardizes everyone’s safety if one person is slacking off for whatever reason.

    Perhaps the policy should be considered for Afghanistan.

  6. anona

    This has been a long time problem on Navy carriers. Women who want to go home can get a one way ticket back home with a pregnancy. Men don’t have that option so they naturally resent women who’ve done this. Married women even did it to be back at home with their other children. It is unfair to the men and bad for morale.

    Joe and Jane both sign up, get the enlistment bonus and train for overseas deployment. Jane demands that she be allowed the same combat opportunities and thus chances for rank advancement as Joe has. Joe and Jane both go to Iraq and do their job. Joe misses his wife and children back home who are nervous about his deployment. He decides one overseas deployment is enough. He would prefer to go back and be stationed statewide for the remainder of his obligation. The army decides to to send him to Afghanistan anyway. His choices if he wants to go home: AWOL, do something so bad they pull him out or mental health issues so bad they think he is a danger. All the above won’t help his future job prospects once he is out. Jane also decides she doesn’t like wartime military deployments and misses her husband and children back home. She wants to stay stateside as well. Her choices if she wants to come home: same as Joe’s with the additional options of getting pregnant when she is home on R & R. She is successful and gets a ticket home and a desk job at Ft. Hood. Do you think Joe would be a little resentful?

    That is why “send them home” doesn’t work because you are giving them exactly what they want. You obviously can’t keep them there driving humvees over explosive devices either so what is the military left with. Although this policy sounds cold, I don’t know what else they could do.

    Moonhowler said it best “how do you think this helps women achieve equal rights if they get pregnant and leave their responsibilities to someone else?”

    Unfortunately there will be some caught in this policy accidentally, but I don’t know that there are other options.

  7. While I can understand why there is a need to deter women from getting pregnant on purpose, I cannot see penalizing all women if it happens accidentally. If this happens, the woman is penalized for being a woman, could hide the pregnancy, could try to abort it herself or take other extreme measures to avoid a court martial.

    Maybe women who get pregnant while deployed should stay deployed but be taken out of combat but stay on site. I don’t claim to know what the answer is, but I do know this policy punishes anyone who has tried to avoid an “oops” and stigmatizes women even further. Why not just brand her with a scarlet letter and get it over with?

  8. What people are missing here is that these military members are not being punished for pregnancy alone. There is a general order prohibiting sex between military members while in theater. THAT is what is a court martial offense. The pregnancy is proof of the violation.

    Obey the general orders and you don’t A)become pregnant/father a child B)Don’t get in trouble.

    I did it for a year. Many others do it for longer. Keep it in your pants.

  9. Just a thought… least we wouldn’t have to worry about pregnancies if they were….wait for it……

  10. Pinko, you are making a strong argument for women to not be in the military in any combat role. Women cannot have it both ways. The military has never been a great bastion of democracy. The defend it but not expect it while you serve. There is no free speech,

    Either women serve along side men going by the same rules or they go back to the secretarial pool or serve as adjuncts. Very few people are as militant about reproductive rights as I am. However, when in the field, your reproductive rights just don’t come in to play. If you are pregnant, you are a weak link, in the military. Weak links endanger us all.

    I expect there has been a rash of pregnancies to land people stateside. Otherwise it would not have come up.

  11. @Cargosquid
    Cargo, that’s something I hadn’t thought of and that makes sense. But if that’s the case, then both of them need to be court martialed.

    MH, the court martial would be for the mom and the dad, right? So laying off the court martial would be for both as well. How is that a different set of rules?

  12. Wolverine

    My, how our world has changed. It used to be that you had to shoot yourself purposely in the foot in order to get out of tough duty. However, I do recall one different tactic encountered at Cua Viet near the DMZ in South Vietnam. A Marine painted one of those anti-war peace symbols on his helmet like he was in Haight-Ashbury instead of Cua Viet. Reminded me of Klinger in “Mash.” Don’t recall what happened to him, but I’ll bet his platoon commander was not a happy camper. In any case, getting pregnant deliberately or shooting yourself in the foot — neither one is an acceptable means to leave your battlefield comrades holding the bag without you.

    I wonder if conscience ever comes into play in these cases. A little story here — about my uncle in World War II (he of the tossed tomato). He and his unit were undergoing training somewhere in the Southwest US. The unit was in a convoy on the move on a public highway. At each intersection, one of the soldiers was required to get out of his truck and protect the convoy by playing traffic cop. As he tells it, my uncle was sick — really sick while on convoy. It was his turn at the next intersection. One of his buddies felt sympathy for him and volunteered to take his turn . As the buddie stood at the intersection, a large truck approached from a side road. The driver didn’t see the soldier, who was struck and killed. My uncle, who had no intention whatsoever of trying to avoid duty deliberately, was haunted by that to the end of his days — a comrade who died in his place.

  13. Wolverine, what a haunting story, obviously one your uncle never forgot. I suspect there are few things worse than survivor’s guilt.

    Klinger is one of my favorite characters of all times, incidentally. But note, Potter didn’t let him out.

    Pregnancy should not be used as an excuse to be let out of a responsibility. At the same time, human life should be protected if possible. How to accomplish that in combat is, of course, a catch 22. But transferring someone from combat isn’t always the worst thing, I suspect. In fact, if the woman is desperate enough to get pregnant on purpose, do you really want her fighting next to you?

  14. Paul

    Actually the social controls in the military are much less stringent than they used to be. A couple decades ago, a single service member wasn’t allowed to marry without commander’s approval until reaching the rank of E-6 (or maybe it was E-5).

    The general here is within his rights.

  15. That’s a pretty haunting story. A real bad dose of ‘No good deed goes unpunished.’

    So Wolverine, do you think the general is being too harsh with his order?

    Pinko, I believe the articles said that they could be court martialed, not that they would be. There are women out there who refuse to identify fathers…aka sperm donors. I would consider court martialing women who refused to tell. I expect the old expression about being ‘busted back to buck private’ might come into play before court martial though.

    I wasn’t suggesting a different set of rules. If the General has ordered no sex, then that is an order. Women simply cannot use pregnancy as a way to get off of combat duty. I don’t know where I changed my position on this subject.

    You are talking about stygmatizing women up a few posts. The women are stygmatizing themselves by violating a direct order. The military cannot be a social program. If you don’t want to follow orders, don’t go in to the military. I don’t like following orders therefore the military never seemed appealing to me at all. You can’t enlist or sign up and expect things to change just for you. it is an all volunteer army. There are certain expectations. Probably the most important one of those expectations is to follow orders. Your life and the lives of those around you makes this imperative.

    Pinko, understand that I am fighting a 2 front war on this one. My husband is also giving me a ration of you know what because he says some of these generals are old male chauvinist pigs. I don’t think that matters in this discussion. One who is pregnant is a weak link. Your fellow troops are at risk because of the weak link. It is the general’s responsibility, mcp or not, to not allow this to happen. I hate when I sound like a man. Women with sons sometimes do have to sound like men.

  16. Sorry about the misspelling in the title. Geez. I kept looking at it, spell checked it even..supposedly offence is a variant so it didn’t throw it out.

  17. HAHAHAHA! MH. I feel for you. Since I have two girls, I suspect we are in different places on this.

    The thing about being stigmatized is that you know darn well the man will never be as stigmatized as the woman. And we also know that people have sex whether they are supposed to or not. I am not saying either of those things is right.

    Take the pregnancy out of it. What happens to those who defy orders and do have sex? Are they court martialed? If not, then it shouldn’t happen if the woman gets pregnant. Otherwise, it’s all just hypocritical.

    Paul, just because someone HAS the right doesn’t mean s/he should use it–as a threat or otherwise. I think this policy makes the military look like a bunch of “old male chauvinist pigs.”

  18. Paul

    Pinko – I doubt its a threat. No commander can afford to be caught making idle threats. My guess is the next pregnancy will be subjected to the UCMJ.

    There’s a couple points. One, its a war zone and a level of cold analysis that those who have never been in a war zone can only imagine. This general is in that theater and presumably has a better appreciation for what he needs to do than anyone else. Not that every decision can’t be scrutinized, but a fair amount of discretion is afforded to the one on the ground and responsible.

    So, regarding your question of whether he should exercise that right, if I was there and had some appreciation for how much of a problem pregnancies have become, I’d have a better answer for you.

    I can tell you I’ve been in combat before, and having someone there basically taking up space and placing additional burdens on others isn’t a winning situation. That’s a basic tenet of expeditionary operations, to the point where those with known health problems (even those without up to date dental checks) are pulled away from their units and not deployed. The military understands it will deal with disease and injury, and has enough experience with both to also understand the operational benefits of keeping both to a minimum. Not to say pregnancy is either a disease or an injury, but the operational effects are the same.

  19. Wolverine

    Moon-howler, if this pregnancy thing is a deliberate act, then I think the general has identified a serious combat problem and is well within his rights. And I also don’t have a problem with getting the stud who performed the other half of the deed. Get pregnant deliberately or shoot yourself in the foot — no real difference in purpose.

    One important factor here, in my opinion, is that we have a “volunteer” military now. This type of shirking I can understand and have seen in a military in which part of the personnel were draftees but when you sign that dotted line as a volunteer, you have an entirely different kind of committment. The time to make this sort of decision is before you ink that dotted line.

  20. Wolverine, that is pretty much how I see it. No one forces you in to the military nowadays. I have some sympathy for Klinger. He was drafted.

    This story has so many layers. I think the core question has to be following orders and what the real job of the military is. (removing all the social fru fru)

    Were we not discussing the military, I might be more inclined to agree with Pinko. Any other job, maybe. Soldiering-no.

  21. @Paul Yes, since we don’t have any numbers to look at (such as how many women really DO get pregnant while in combat), it’s hard to tell if this drastic tactic is necessary.

    I also realize that since I’ve never been in combat, my perceptions are different from those who serve. Still, it just strikes me as being wrong somehow.

    I still want to know–what is the penalty for having sex while being on combat duty?

  22. Slowpoke Rodriguez

    Cargosquid :
    Just a thought… least we wouldn’t have to worry about pregnancies if they were….wait for it……

    Well, your logic’s dead on!

  23. A PW County Resident

    I am not sure that there is some sinister motive here against women. Must everything be done because of dislike or can there actually be a realistic issue?

    The general has a mission. The people under him have the same mission regardless of gender. There is a warning of punishment that has been issued.

    Subject closed.

  24. A PW County Resident

    And I have two daughters also.

  25. Paul

    Pinko – not sure what the penalty would be. Depends on what the charges were – probably conduct unbecoming. The charges would dictate the type of procedure. This might even be handled NJP (non-judicial punishment), but I doubt it. Potential punishments include loss of rank up to dishonorable discharge. Of course military prison is a potentiality, too, but I suspect neither the woman or the man would serve any time. My purely dumb guess is administrative discharge.

  26. I also have a daughter, son, stepson. I have not ever served in the military.

    I expect it is harder and harder to get replacements. Something triggered that kind of response from the general. His orders were vetted. They aren’t running a nursery over there. They are trying to win a war.

  27. @A PW County Resident
    Oh I don’t think it’s sinister, PWCR. I think it’s a bad policy that has some pretty negative messages attached to it, none of those necessarily being good deterrents.

    I just think a court martial is over the top and would have too many negative ramifications.

  28. Gill Robb

    I guess anal sex is still OK in the ARMY, though. I know my whole unit took it up the wazoo back in Nam.

    Seriously, most of us, whether retired or active duty have to salute General Anthony Cucolo’s integrity and initiative.

    He is absolutely right that getting pregnant and departing early degrades his unit’s integrity and presumably its combat effectiveness. Imagine how much better his team could function if he weren’t trying to go to battle with an enemy of warriors with what is equivalent to a co-ed volleyball team?

    General Cucolo is the first Army officer, in many years, who I would consider having my sons serve under, in battle.

  29. What would those negative ramifications be?

    Pinko said:

    2. This policy is a frightening attempt to control reproduction under military rule.

    3. This policy is anti-family and anti-woman.

    The above sounds pretty sinister to me. I just dont think it is any of those things. It is an attempt to prevent people from leaving a position that needs to be filled open.

    Losing ones rank sounds like a pretty good deterrant to me. Pinko, it is disobeying orders. What is the punishment for disobeying other orders? There have to be consequences.

    The only alternative I can see is to tell women they cannot be in combat areas. Is that what women have worked so hard to achieve? Women either have to obey orders or not be assigned to combat areas. We can’t have a situation where one group of people has to obey orders and the other group can just pick and chose which orders to obey and if they get tired and want to go home, well let them.

    How would that affect morale? Good grief. It might also encourage all the men to become rapists. Raping someone would be a whole lot easier than shooting one’s self in the foot. Then the men would get to go home also. There have to be consequences for violating an order.

  30. I would like to think that most of our men and women in uniform are highly professional and combat ready. I would not define our troops as a co-ed volley ball team. Are there folks who would take advantage of a situation to get out of duty? Yes. There always have been and always will be. Those are outliers.

  31. Elena

    I do understand the Generals point, however, birth control is NOT 100% ever. It is possible to be on birth control and still get pregant. The only way to avoid this from happening at all is to not have sex. However, I imagine, during such stressful times, as in a war zone, sex may be pretty difficult to regulate. I hate to imagine there being punitive action against having sex when one is already risking their life in time of war.

  32. I think sex is hard to regulate…thus the stated consequences.

    What on earth did people do before the military was gender integrated?

  33. anona

    It also depends on what each of you means when you say an “accident”. Having a little too much to drink and finding the sexy brown eyed soldier next to you so charming that you get caught up in the moment and don’t have available birth control is not an “Accident”. That is taking a risk. Faithfully using birth control, and taking other precautions such as a second method of birth control and still getting pregnant is an “accident”.

    Birth control is very effective especially when TWO forms are used. We don’t have that many women in the warzone so there would only be a very very tiny miniscule number of women that: A) chose to be the military, B) got shipped overseas to this particular area C) had sex with someone and D) was taking the pill faithfully AND using condoms and their double birth control still failed.

    Even in the event that the unbelievable happens and a woman did end up preggers, the court martial procedure would still allow her to present her case and they may not even rule against her if she could prove that she and the other soldier took extra precautions to protect themselves.

    This policy isn’t to catch people like that. It is to catch those who are making everyone else mad because they are getting pregnant so they can go home.

    And for those women who say, I can’t take the pill or I don’t want an IUD, then don’t have sex while on deployment because you are risking your military career. And you’ll be in good company with all the married people over there who shouldn’t be having sex either because they aren’t with their spouses.

    It may not be fair but as long as you knew the deal going in, you have a decision to make: play by the rules or take your lumps when you don’t play by the rules.

  34. Paul

    “What is the punishment for disobeying other orders?”

    That’s why I said the charge would probably be conduct unbecoming. If the charge is disobeying orders in a combat theater, the punishment could be execution, and almost certainly would be a long time in a military prison. I don’t think anyone would want to go to that extreme.

  35. Apparently General Cucolo has said he had no intentions of jailing pregnant women. He also has about 2000 women under his command. Women who were raped would not be subjected to discipline.

    Now there’s a slippery slope if I have ever seen one.

  36. Hats off to Pinko for maintaining her stance in the face of overwhelming opposition. Many of us swarmed her but she held on tight. I don’t agree with her but I respect her opposition.

  37. MH, I wish I had more time to spend on this, but Elena summarized one of my biggest concerns here:

    Elena :
    I do understand the Generals point, however, birth control is NOT 100% ever. It is possible to be on birth control and still get pregant. The only way to avoid this from happening at all is to not have sex. However, I imagine, during such stressful times, as in a war zone, sex may be pretty difficult to regulate. I hate to imagine there being punitive action against having sex when one is already risking their life in time of war.

    The rape clause is slippery for both men and women. The woman could cry “rape” or if she was raped, she might not be believed. The man might cry rape just as easily. Or the man might say, “She said she was using birth control.” Or the woman might say, “He said he had a vasectomy.” Do you see where all of this leads?

    Thanks for clarifying, Paul. I would hope no one would go to an extreme, but the fact is, if a law is on the books, some wacko eventually probably WILL go to the extreme.

    Don’t they have lawyers looking at things like this?

  38. @anona
    I guess I would add this to the mix: how easy is it to get “in the mood” or even be alone in a combat area? I’m just asking.

  39. @Moon-howler
    Thanks, MH.

    Like I said, I wish I had more time to address my initial points of this policy being anti-family etc. but it would take longer than I have.

    This is an interesting thread.

  40. Being in a war zone isn’t the place to start a family. You have to put your unit and fellow warriors before yourself. I have heard this from many many different people, both men and women. And I would totally agree with you if they were not in a combat zone. this is the crux of the matter. Combat zone. If you aren’t pulling your weight, someone must take up the slack. Troops are stretched thin as it is. It can be a matter of life and death.

    You and Elena are both missing something critical here. General’s orders. Orders are not suggestions. So all the ooops in the world don’t compensate for violating orders. If you don’t want to follow orders, don’t volunteer for the military. Yes contraception can fail. You have still disobeyed orders. If you are going to disobey orders, make darn sure you don’t get caught.

    I have known women who cried ‘rape’ to take blame off of themselves. I don’t think times have changed that much. But that is another matter.

    Pinko, have you ever dated anyone military or had relatives in service? I think maybe that is why we are doing the parallel universe thing on this subject. It isn’t about what you want. Its about what a superior officer feels is in the best interest of the unit, whatever size that unit might be.

  41. I have relatives who are active or Vets. But please, everyone, see this article and think about how a policy like this could further stigmatize all women in the military, especially those who have been raped:

  42. Don’t forget, too, that some women are raped and blame themselves, so they don’t report it. What happens to those women suffering from the aftermath of rape, especially those who get pregnant?

    I think this is anti-family because what if two people get together and are serious about one another and just have an “ooops.” It’s not fair to take away benefits from the couple or the child in this case.

  43. Does it matter if people disobey orders? I think that need to be the focus. We aren’t talking about people stateside. We are talking about people in combat. We are talking about people serving under one general who is trying to deal with a problem: Women getting pregnant to get sent stateside. It is hurting morale, making many of the men angry (who are left to shooting themselves in the foot) and it is short-changing those who remain to do the job assigned to them.

    If there is no discipline in the military then we have a great deal to worry about.

    Let me put it another way, when you are deployed to a combat zone, you aren’t being sent on boink duty.

    It appears neither of us are going to blink on this one, Pinko. I just don’t think that the military is the place where we get to exercise our freedom of choice.

  44. Wolverine

    Game over. I heard yesterday that the US Army has scrubbed General Cuculo’s stated policy.

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