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Posted on Jun 12, 2003 Print this Article


A 33 year-old female Marine gave birth to a healthy 7-pound baby boy on May 23, while she was aboard the warship USS Boxer.  The amphibious vessel was deployed at the time in a war zone near Kuwait, where the unnamed staff sergeant was assigned to a ground unit. 

A Pentagon official told the Washington Times that the Marine did not tell anyone she was pregnant because she did not know that she was.  Names were withheld pending notification of her immediate family.

In response to the front-page story by Rowan Scarborough, Center for Military Readiness President Elaine Donnelly renewed her call for a full and detailed review of all Clinton-era social policies in the military. 

“Liberal pregnancy policies imposed on the Navy and Marine Corps in 1995 by then- Secretary of the Navy John Dalton are in need of serious review and repeal,” she said.  “Clinton-era pregnancy policies, still in effect, offer overly generous education, housing, and medical benefits to pregnant sailors, regardless of marital status or number of pregnancies.” 

Donnelly, who served on the 1992 Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces, is critical of Dalton pregnancy policies that “have created a perverse incentive for irresponsible behavior and single parenthood, especially in the enlisted ranks.  Instead of supporting stable families, such policies worsen non-deployability and readiness problems.”

Donnelly noted that the Dalton policy forbids “downgrading marks or adverse comments” related to medical limitations, assignment restrictions, and/or periods of absence due to pregnancy.  “This regulation is problematic,” she said, “because it implies that anyone commenting on any aspect of pregnancy-related problems could face severe career penalties.  Hence the apparent lack of information on anomalies such as this, and assurances from some officials that pregnancy in the Navy and Marine Corps is ‘not a problem.’”

To see a comprehensive analysis of the 1995 Dalton Pregnancy Policy as published in the March 1995 CMR Report, please click here:  

Under the Dalton policy, pregnancy tests are not required prior to deployment, and the woman does not have to name the father.  (Tests are only required at the time of a station transfer.)  Deployments on Navy ships are permitted up to 20 weeks, provided that medical care is no more than 6 hours away.  Regulations require that a pregnant sailor notify her commanding officer within two weeks of diagnosis, and servicewomen may not be assigned overseas after the 28th week of pregnancy. 

Donnelly expressed the hope that high-level officials, starting with President George W. Bush, would immediately request full and accurate information about the consequences of Clinton-era social policies that are not in the best interests of the Navy, the Marine Corps, or the children involved. 

“In this case, high-level civilian and uniformed Pentagon leaders must issue an immediate request for detailed information on the numbers of women who did not deploy or were evacuated from Operation Iraqi Freedom due to pregnancy.  The Defense Department should also collect data and report on all non-deployments and evacuations that occurred due to other medical problems and family/child care complications among dual service couples and single parents with custody.”

She added, “Women served their country well in Operation Iraqi Freedom.  The nation is proud of their service, but unwise personnel policies ordered by Clinton-era civilians are creating needless, demoralizing risks for men and women alike. 

“Now that this situation has come to light, it is more likely that constructive changes will be made by the Marine Corps and by all the services.  The first step in solving a problem is to first acknowledge that a problem exists.”


The Center for Military Readiness is an independent public policy organization that specializes in military personnel issues.





By Rowan Scarborough


June 11, 2003, Front Page



A Marine gave birth aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Boxer in the Persian Gulf last month, marking what Pentagon officials believe is the first time an active-duty woman delivered a baby on a combat ship in a war zone.

As a rule, the Pentagon does not deploy pregnant service members to war zones. Navy regulations, which also cover the Marine Corps, require a pregnant servicewoman to notify her commanding officer no later than two weeks after diagnosis.

A Pentagon official said the Marine in this case told superiors that she did not know she was pregnant.

"She never told anybody she was pregnant," the official said. "I think she claimed she didn't know she was pregnant. The good thing was the Boxer has a complete hospital on board, so that was not a problem."

The Marine is assigned to a ground unit in Kuwait and was aboard the USS Boxer in the Gulf area when she went into labor. 

Marine Corps headquarters, in response to an inquiry from the Washington Times, released a statement yesterday:

"The medical staff of the USS Boxer delivered a 7-pound baby boy on board the ship May 23 at 10:58 p.m. The mother, a 33-year-old U.S. Marine staff sergeant, is assigned to Headquarters Battery 11th Marines as an administrative chief. Mother and baby, both healthy and in good condition, were transported from Boxer to the New al Mowasat Hospital in Salmiya, Kuwait. Following a short stay, they will travel to San Diego. Names are being withheld until immediate family has been notified."

As women play a larger role in the armed forces today, pregnancy during military operations is a matter the Pentagon studies to determine whether it hurts combat readiness by leaving critical jobs vacant.

The Navy at one point in the mid-1990s experienced a 10 percent pregnancy rate for women on six-month sea tours and looked at policies to discourage pregnancies while assigned to ships.

A Pentagon spokeswoman said yesterday that she had no data on the pregnancy rate in Operation Iraqi Freedom, in which more than 25,000 women, out of the total U.S. force of about 270,000, were deployed.

Elaine Donnelly, director of the Center for Military Readiness, said the birth should spur the Pentagon to review its policies.

"I know the Marines are good at 'multiplying' the force, but this is ridiculous," Mrs. Donnelly said.

"President Bush should immediately request detailed information on deployability problems and evacuations due to pregnancy during the battle of Iraq," she said. "Today's Marine Corps and Navy cannot afford policies that subsidize and, therefore, encourage irresponsible behavior. This baby was born safely, despite obvious hazards, but childbirth aboard warships is not an acceptable situation."

The Navy adopted regulations in the mid-1990s that declare pregnancy compatible with military service. But the new policy also placed requirements on service members.

The regulations, updated in March, state: "The individual servicewoman is responsible for notifying her CO ... of her pregnancy as soon as possible, but no later than two weeks after diagnosis of pregnancy. This will help facilitate planning a request for replacement requisition if the servicewoman is in a sea going/deployable billet."

No service member can be assigned overseas after the 28th week of pregnancy, the policy says.

The rule is designed to protect the health of the mother and the baby.

Mrs. Donnelly said her research shows that there have been four deliveries at sea since women entered the fleet in 1978. None happened in a war zone on a combat ship. Two occurred in 1994 on support ships while in port. 



Posted on Jun 12, 2003 Print this Article