I’m going to respond to this article, paragraph by paragraph and do my best to keep the emotion out of my response. My responses to each paragraph are offset. Here is the original link to the post http://www.kstatecollegian.com/mobile/opinion/enlisted-women-should-be-required-to-take-birth-control-1.2135616

Enlisted women should be required to take birth control

By Karen Ingram


Hannah Loftus

Let me tell you a story about two former soldiers I know.

The first one is a tiny thing, four inches shorter than me, but she did two tours in Iraq, and she is one of the toughest human beings I know.

The second one was sent to Afghanistan, and I could tell by the way she moaned about how she didn’t want to go that she would not be gone long. Sure enough, she returned within a couple of months, pregnant.

These women are depictions of women across the service. I do not deny that there are women out there who do get pregnant to get out of deployment, just like there are men who come up with excuses to get out of deployment. Contrary to this author’s belief, men have a myriad of excuses not to deploy, from faking PTSD to alcohol and drug abuse to financial and family problems. Each individual command determines who deploys and who doesn’t based of individual reasons.

A number of women soldiers who get deployed to places like Iraq or Afghanistan get sent home early because they become pregnant … while they’re over there.

Again, true. Women do get pregnant in the combat zone but where are your numbers? I can tell you in my brigade, there were less than 10 women sent home from the combat zone last year. In a force of nearly 4000, we’re talking about 10 soldiers. There were significantly more men sent home from the fight and not for injuries.

Women are necessary in the military. For example, when patting down suspects to check for weapons, they need women to pat down the women. When a large percentage of the women soldiers get knocked up and sent home early, this creates a negative impact on the rest of the soldiers. In response to this problem, Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo issued an order on Nov. 4 stating that any soldier involved in a war-time pregnancy, male or female, could be subject to court martial. As of yet, this rule has not been enforced, but it’s still made many people cry foul.

I absolute agree that all soldiers are critical to the fight, however, you state that a ‘large percentage’ of females get knocked up and sent home early. Where are your numbers to indicate that a large percentage of females are sent home early. Can you point to specific facts to back your statement up? Because I would be interested in seeing the numbers myself.

Four Democratic Senators, all of them women, wrote a letter to Cucolo asking him to rescind that order on Dec. 22, saying, “We can think of no greater deterrent to women contemplating a military career than the image of a pregnant woman being severely punished for conceiving a child.”

Talk about missing the point. These women are not getting pregnant while on home soil with plenty of time to spare before deployment; they are using pregnancy as an excuse to neglect their duties as soldiers in war zones. Either right before they are deployed, or as soon as they set foot over there, they sleep around to intentionally get pregnant so they can leave early. Many capable women soldiers, such as the one I mentioned earlier, face prejudice and ridicule from men because these deserters are giving women soldiers a bad name.

When, on home soil, is a good time to get pregnant? Unless you get pregnant the day you get home from deployment, you will still miss out on some of the next deployment when you have a baby. In most combat brigades, the average time at home station is 12 months and during that twelve months, these brigades are resetting and training for the next deployment. In my brigade, for example, we had exercises from July straight through until October, when we loaded our equipment on the trains for Iraq. So you state there is plenty of time for females to have babies, but the operational tempo in active duty combat brigades simply doesn’t provide for the kind of time you suggest is available.

The fact is, even in the 90s, when the OPTEMPO was significantly less than it is today, women were given a hard time for having children. In my nearly fifteen years experience, there has never been a good time in the army to have babies. Punishing women is not the answer.

And who could blame the men for being angry for women using pregnancy as an excuse to desert their duties? That isn’t fair. The men have no such cop-out available to them unless they desert. Why shouldn’t women deserters be punished, too?

Men have lots of reasons to get out of deployment. In fact, when commanders are looking at personnel, they fully expect that 10% of the total force available will not deploy. That number is even greater now because of the strain on the force due to back to back deployments.

If women wish to join the military, they must be just as willing to go to war for their country as any man. Women cannot expect to have equal rights with men if they use reproduction as an excuse to get out of their duties. Women can join the military and have children, but when they are in combat zones, the only thing they should be doing is their job as soldiers. Separate but equal is not equal.

You state that separate but equal is not equal. I agree with you. However, having nearly 15 years in the active duty army, I can tell you that most of our soldiers are willing to deploy, male and female. People that are not willing to deploy simply get out of the military and my response to them is thank you for serving. But you miss a key point: every unit will have a rear detachment because there will always be soldiers who cannot deploy. Because a female chooses to have a baby does not mean she cannot contribute to the war effort in some way, just as men who are on rear detachment support the warfighters downrange.

I agree with you one hundred percent, however, when you state that when in a combat zone, the only thing they should be doing is soldiering. In Utopia, that would be the case but ignoring the fact that when men and women get together, there will always be hormones flying does nothing to address the reality of men and women deploying. Pretending that sex won’t happen is idealistic and unrealistic.

Unfortunately, the older I get, the more realistic and cynical I have become. I realize that no matter how much you try to explain to them that they are doing more harm than good for women’s rights by copping out on the menfolk, they won’t listen. They’ll cry and moan about their rights to breed, totally neglecting the fact that they are, first and foremost, soldiers.

You paint every single female soldier with the brush of coping out. Guess what? Thousands and thousands of women have deployed, many multiple times. Some of us have had babies and then deployed. You miss the point when you say that we are all coping out by wanting to be able to have families. And women’s rights is about the ability to choose, not about the ability to be just like a man. If nothing else, the fact that women can have children and still serve on active duty is major step forward for women’s rights, not the other way around. Providing role models for young women and showing them they can do anything and still have a family is a stronger example than punishing women for having babies. The punishment factor is another way that people who are against women’s rights continue to push women out of the public domain. Finding a way to balance the two is significantly better than saying you as a woman can only do one or the other.

Last time I checked, a soldier’s body was not his or her own. Legally, it’s government property, which means the government dictates to a soldier what they can and cannot do with his or her body. While this policy has resulted in some very unfortunate incidents, such as the Edgewood experiments, it is supposed to ensure that soldiers are regulated so they can perform their duties as needed.

So Depo has no side effects? No weight gain that the female would be punished for, no emotional side effects? The army should be able to inject me with whatever they see fit? In that case, let’s sign up a brigade for experimental vaccines against AIDS. Or the flu. Force protection is not the same thing as forced injections.

So, since I can’t talk sense into the people who signed up for the job, I have a suggestion for their boss instead: Change the policy. Instead of punishing soldiers for war-zone pregnancy, make it mandatory for all women soldiers to be on birth control. And not just any birth control; make sure it’s Depo-Provera, a type of birth control given by injection. If we can’t rely on women soldiers to keep their pants on, we can’t rely on them to take a pill every day, now can we? Not to mention the fact that, for the legitimate women soldiers, being in a combat zone isn’t the best place to remember to take a pill every single day. The Depo-Provera shot, on the other hand, is only needed once every three months. Every soldier is required to get a dozen shots before they go over there anyway, so just add this to their round of inoculations. Problem solved.

The army does not have the right to tell me when I can or cannot have a family. They do not do that to male soldiers, ergo they cannot do that for female soldiers. I just returned from a combat zone where I was deployed with my husband. Guess what? I remembered to take my pill every single day. For you to break female soldiers down into legitimate and not-legitimate soldiers simply shows that you have no idea how the military works. You are simply attacking women who wish to have families and still serve their country. You uphold negative stereotypes of women, that every woman who gets pregnant is doing so to get out of a deployment and that simply is untrue. Some women simply wish to have a family. You also state that enlisted women should be required to take Depo. What about officers? Should they? Or do you even know the difference between officers and enlisted?

I have much respect for all soldiers. I come from a military family myself. If some women demand to be treated as equally as the men, but use excuses to cop out of doing their duty, I say we beat them to the punch and prevent them from doing so by making Depo-Provera mandatory while they are stationed in combat zones. If the chances of a woman soldier becoming pregnant while in combat were basically eliminated by doing so, their fellow soldiers might feel they can count on them more. A soldier in combat has only one duty, and that is to be a soldier, no matter which gender.

I completely disagree with you here and I don’t believe you have respect for all soldiers. The tone of your piece is completely disrespectful toward female soldiers en masse and shows a lack of respect for our military in general. Our soldiers are part of a team, irrespective of gender. Females serving in units are respected and serve with dignity. This war has proven that women are capable of serving in combat with distinction. You state that separate but equal is not equal but targeting women with birth control when you do not target males with the same thing is not equal. Also, what about the men who are sleeping with women over there? Are they blameless? Should they be forced to be injected with something as punishment for getting these women pregnant.

I have no problem discussing the way forward for females to serve in the military and I do not deny that some women do get pregnant to get out of service. But to state that all women do so is a disservice and clouds the discussion with baseless accusations. You present no facts in your piece, nor do you back up any of your statements with numbers. You act like Depo is the answer for this and it simply is not. The army is actually loathe to give out Depo as the birth control of choice because of the myriad of side effects, some of which can be severe.

I welcome the discussion about women in the military but saying we are all tramps who can’t be trusted to keep our legs closed is not the way to go about leading the conversation.