Lt. Col. Pamela Hart, an Army spokeswoman at the Pentagon, said the Army does chart the number of women who choose to leave the service because of pregnancy, but does not release information on those who exit a war theater. Army regulations forbid pregnant soldiers from staying in the field.
“The Army reporting is in general terms, reflecting [Defense Department] guidance,” Col. Hart said. “We give you general numbers. That’s designed to protect the rights of women, soldiers and the organization.”
The “general numbers” show statistics for women who voluntarily left the Army after becoming pregnant. In recent years, those numbers have ranged from 1,506 in 1998 to 1,698 last year. In the first half of this fiscal year, which began in October 2003, 922 women have left the Army due to pregnancy.
Col. Hart said non-deployability because of pregnancy “wouldn’t present any special problems” in Iraq. For a number of reasons, including injuries or illness, “soldiers have to return home all the time,” she said.
While the Army does not track pregnancies during deployment, individual units do.
Task Force Ironhorse, a group of 33,000 soldiers anchored by the 4th Infantry Division, experienced “less than 20” pregnancies among some 2,000 female members, according to Lt. Col. William MacDonald. “We were fully capable to do our mission,” the spokesman said.
There are now 255,000 soldiers in the Iraq and Afghanistan theaters, of whom 28,142, or 11 percent, are women.
In Operation Iraqi Freedom, women served in more combat roles in aircraft and ships than in any U.S. operation. They totaled 25,455 in a 269,000-troop invasion force, according to the Pentagon. Women are banned from ground combat, but nonetheless find themselves in such roles as members of supply convoys and military police units that experience firefights.
Mrs. Donnelly has written to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld warning that the military is becoming a haven for single moms. She said fiscal 2002 statistics show that the Navy reassigned to shore duty 2,159 pregnant women, or 12.3 percent of 17,543 enlisted women on ships.
“Overly generous incentives for single parents and large families attract even more unstable, low-income families that depend on the [Defense Department’s] extensive social welfare system,” Mrs. Donnelly wrote. “Some feminists have described the military, approvingly, as a ‘Mecca’ for single moms.”