US cancels Iraq pregnancy rules

2009-12-26 14:33

Baghdad - The US army has cancelled controversial rules that punish soldiers in north Iraq who fall pregnant or who impregnate a female soldier, an American military spokesperson said on Saturday.

The decision follows concern that the provisions put in place by Major General Anthony Cucolo, commander of US forces in north Iraq, could lead to some soldiers being court-martialed.

"In the normal course of standing up United States Forces-Iraq (USF-I), a review of all existing orders and policies of several commands has been underway," First Lieutenant Elizabeth Feste said in an e-mail.

"The updated USF-I policy does not include a pregnancy provision.

"Additionally, all requests by subordinate units to impose further restrictions of activities ... will require approval of the USF-I Commander."

US troops currently operate under the command of Multi-National Forces-Iraq, but this will be changed effective January 1 2010 to reflect the fact that no other countries have troops stationed in the country.

As a result, the command will be called USF-I.

Under Cucolo's rules, which unleashed a fiery debate, violators were threatened with criminal charges or even a court-martial. They applied both to women who fall pregnant and men who impregnate female soldiers, even if the couple is married.

The Pentagon had said that a commander can impose such rules to personnel under his command.

Cucolo defended his decision as a means to help guard against the loss of valuable female soldiers. US troops are sent back home if they become pregnant. Cucolo currently commands around 22 000 soldiers in northern Iraq, about 1,700 of whom are women.

The United States, which currently maintains a military force of some 115 000 in Iraq, plans to reduce its footprint to 50 000 by the end of August ahead of a full withdrawal of all troops by the end of 2011.