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Sunday, 20 April 2014

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UK's don’t ask, don’t tell policy

Nobody suspected she was pregnant – least of all, the mother herself. So, when a British servicewoman gave birth to a baby boy at Camp Bastion on Afghanistan’s frontline, the ensuing furore was almost comical in its spinning, screaming chaos.

annesept25
Life on the frontline: A medic in Afghanistan, as a British servicewoman has given birth while serving in Afghanistan

How could it have happened? Same way it always does, at a guess. How could she not have known she was expecting? Some women don’t. How come she’d never been checked for pregnancy before being deployed? Very good question.

Nobody seems to have answered that one. All service personnel have regular medicals, the Ministry of Defence insists.

How regular though – every year, every six months, every now and again when someone in a back office remembers? And are pregnancy tests included?

Embarrassment of oversight won’t be going away in a hurry and already there are emerging rumblings of disgruntlement about women serving on war’s frontline. Once it gets up a head of steam – again – it will run and run.

This is the first time a British soldier has given birth on the frontline, although up to 200 service women have been sent home from Iraq and Afghanistan since 2003 after discovering they were pregnant.

Last year a soldier gave birth two weeks after her six-month deployment ended.

Giving birth is what women do. It’s what we’re built for, what nature intended. And yet, not only in the Army but in any workplace, it’s simply not done to ask a woman whether she’s pregnant or planning to be any time soon. Which, in effect, means nobody can plan much at all. The MoD says it will not be bringing in mandatory pregnancy tests for women headed for theatres of war. It was and would remain a matter of privacy – and up to female soldiers to come forward with news of a happy event.

All a bit coy, isn’t it? So coy and head-in-sandish that lives are likely to be risked – never mind the efficient organisation of troops.

Haven’t we moved on from dark age days when men simply didn’t want to know about “women’s things” and women were too scared to admit to commanding officer, MoD medic or employer that they will possibly want to do what they were built for one day and they’ll not take offence at being asked the question?

Women destined for combat or entering war zones simply must be tested for a pregnancy of which they may not themselves be aware.

And employers wanting to form workable relationships with women can no longer afford being forced to bite their tongues when needing to plan for their business.

Have your say

This may be a silly question coming from a man, but surely you must know if you're pregnant? Mrs Bryan had no doubt at all; she'll be the first to admit it, (but still I sincerely hope she doesn't read this), with our kids, she was like a walrus from day one. Very obviously expecting. Fair to say she's got her beautiful figure back though. Still, I'm off to the florist in case she's been watching!

Posted by Bryan on 26 September 2012 at 18:58

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