US Military Seems More Ready for Motherhood Than Warfare

By Jude Eden Published on March 7, 2017

On the list on touchy hot-button issues, pregnancy in the military is at the top. The branches are loath to disclose the numbers and costs, not to mention the harm to combat readiness.

Richard Pollock recently got the latest numbers for pregnancy on Navy vessels through a Freedom of Information Act request. In 2016 they were up to an all-time high of 16 percent or 3840 women. About 10% of active duty women are pregnant at any given time. The Marines are at the low end of military pregnancies at 8 percent. Yet to be revealed is how much these thousands of pregnancies are costing per year in wasted training, taxpayer dollars and lack of readiness for combat.

A pregnant active-duty female has several options. She may decide to have an abortion, which in the past was tax-payer funded, but is not currently covered. She may decide, as thousands of women do annually, to exit the military before her service contract’s end. She may decide to have the baby, which will be fully funded.

If she’s on ship or overseas deployment, she’ll be sent back to the states at a cost of roughly $30,000, her expensive military and combat training up to that point rendered useless. If she doesn’t opt to leave the military, the duties she can perform will be increasingly limited as the pregnancy progresses so as not to endanger mother or child. Postpartum she’ll have 18 weeks of maternity leave and up to twelve months to return to fitness standards — timelines that were extended in 2016 from nine and six respectively by then-Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

Having made policy of feminist ideology, the U.S. military treats pregnancy as “no different than a broken leg,” so in many cases she won’t be replaced. Rather, her spot in her unit will be held open until she’s again fit for duty, leaving her peers with extra work until her return. That is, if she does return.

Unintended Pregnancies Higher Among Military Women

Of course, pregnancy is nothing like a broken leg, but don’t expect those who are pushing for more females in the ranks to concede such an obvious point. There’s nothing comparable for men that renders them non-deployable. And a broken leg doesn’t come with an eighteen-year child-rearing commitment or the question of abortion. The Navy changed postpartum tours from four months to twelve in 2007, which means overall a pregnant sailor is on limited duty for about 21 months. When she is transferred to shore duty, she pushes out others who may be more qualified for those billets, and often cannot perform the duties required.

“Women actively serving in the military have lower reported contraception use and higher rates of unintended pregnancy than the general U.S. population.”

What’s more, most are unintended. The rate of unintended pregnancy in the Navy as reported by Stars & Stripes was a stunning 74 percent in 2013 and these numbers are only getting higher. Some claim this is due to lack of access to birth control, but practically every kind of birth control is obtainable by military women, including while deployed. Many are simply choosing not to use it.

According to one 2012 study by the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology “[S]urveys of active-duty personnel of reproductive age demonstrate that although 70 to 85 percent were sexually active, nearly 40 percent used no contraception.” The study also found that “women actively serving in the military have lower reported contraception use and higher rates of unintended pregnancy than the general U.S. population.”

According to the Marine Corps’ 2015 combat integration analysis, over a two year period “the number of pregnant lance corporals averaged around 50 per month.This represents 12 percent to 17 percent of medically non-deployable female lance corporals.”

Meanwhile, the Navy Times reports that the Navy is short slightly more than the number of pregnant sailors: “Currently there are 3,898 unfilled billets at sea. …” Policy makers don’t connect the consequences of pushing for more female representation in the ranks and billet shortfalls when many of them become pregnant.

Dangerous Consequences

This  greatly harms our readiness to engage our enemies. “Overall, women unexpectedly leave their stations on Navy ships as much as 50 percent more frequently to return to land duty, according to documents obtained from the Navy,” Pollock reports. In 2013 the Globe & Mail reported that “one study of a brigade operating in Iraq found that female soldiers were evacuated at three times the rate of male soldiers — and that 74 percent of them were evacuated for pregnancy-related issues.”

It was the same 3:1 rate, “largely due to pregnancy,” during Desert Shield/Desert Storm according to the 1992 Presidential Commission on Women in the Armed Services. Cohesion built up over months of training, the value of her training and care, and potentially a critical leadership role are all lost, and her peers have to make up her job function. These losses are due to the consequences of consensual behavior (except, of course, in the case of rape). These losses get higher and the readiness gets lower every year.

Pregnancy is antithetical to preparing for and executing warfare, whether it’s combatant ships, combat pilot jobs or ground combat units.

The Left wants us to pretend that this doesn’t matter. It’s just the cost of doing business with a gender-integrated military. In fact, one of the primary concerns of the heavily feminist Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services (DACOWITS) was to ensure women are not discriminated against because of pregnancy. Their 2015 report states: “Several formal programs exist to prevent pregnancy-related discrimination and help military women balance their careers with parenthood.” The Air Force even funds a sabbatical program whereby personnel can take one to three years off to have children.

We’re not allowed to acknowledge that pregnancy is antithetical to preparing for and executing warfare, whether it’s combatant ships, combat pilot jobs or ground combat units. But if America knew how much we were spending on pregnancy, prenatal and postpartum care for women who can only serve in a limited capacity for two years, or how much we’re spending to train women who end up leaving the military to have their babies, it might put some things in perspective. For example, early in the Iraq War there were reports of deployed servicemen having to buy their own body armor and protective gear and of inadequately armored vehicles.

Our Marine aircraft are at a mere 30 percent readiness and cuts to training budgets have resulted in fatal flight crashes. Military Times recently reported:

Only three of the Army’s 58 Brigade Combat Teams are ready to fight; 53 percent of Navy aircraft can’t fly; the Air Force is 723 fighter pilots short; and the Marine Corps needs 3,000 more troops. “We’re just flat-out out of money” to address those immediate needs and provide the additional personnel and maintenance funding to plan for the future, Navy Adm. William Moran said…

This is what happens when the top military priority is how the force looks instead of how it functions in wartime. Our priorities have been way out of whack. The new Secretary of Defense James Mattis should take a good hard look at our pitiful state of non-readiness and make changes accordingly. We cannot afford to continue this status quo. Our peer enemies like Iran are doing no such thing. They’re preparing for serious warfare. So should we.


Correction: The policy on coverage of abortions for active duty women has changed multiple times over the years. The current policy is that abortions are not covered. The text above has been corrected accordingly.

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