A new order from Major General Anthony Cucolo, who is in charge of 22,000 U.S. troops in northern Iraq, regarding pregnancy among soldiers has ignited a firestorm of criticism and may have caused him to backtrack.
In order to avoid losing soldiers at a time when troops are stretched thin, Cucolo instituted a rule last month that prohibits "becoming nondeployable for reasons within the control of the soldier," which include "becoming pregnant, or impregnating a soldier," quoted by CNN.
The rule further specified that soldiers involved in this type of activity would be subject to court martial, although women who become pregnant as a result of sexual assault would be exempt.
Experts said the order was legal as issues regarding personal autonomy are treated differently in the military, but a spokeswoman for the National Organization for Women (NOW) called it "ridiculous."
NOW president Terry O’Neill was quoted by ABC News as saying, "how dare any government say we’re going to impose any kind of punishment on women for getting pregnant?"
She added that NOW would seek to have Cucolo’s order rescinded, and would turn to Defense Secretary Robert Gates and President Obama for help, if necessary.
This may have prompted the general to backtrack his earlier statements as he told the press last week that he saw "absolutely no circumstance where I would punish a female soldier by court martial for a violation…none."
"I fully intend to handle these cases through lesser disciplinary action," he added.