“More than 130 American women in military service have died in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. More than 800 women have been wounded,” writes the New York Times. Even with a U.S. Defense Department policy that bans women from being in direct combat, women have paid a heavy price for our involvement in these wars.
The New York Times recommends that this ban be dropped, especially given that the Army “circumvents it by ‘attaching’ women to combat units instead of actually assigning them.” Perhaps the New York Times should also recommend that federal taxation be dropped, given that some of our top officials, including the Secretary of the Treasury, have circumvented our tax laws.
Two female Army reservists have filed suit to convince a court to find the policy unconstitutional under the equal protection clause. Their suit alleges that the practice of “attaching” women instead of “assigning” them to combat units results in “no practical differences,” but hampers their chance at career advancement, higher pay, and larger pensions.
Yet there are real reasons to avoid putting women in combat. Many young single women are specifically recruited to serve in our military. Some are also mothers, or they become pregnant when they are deployed. When you mix young women with fit young men, pregnancies are to be expected.
As Hoover Institution research fellow Mary Eberstadt explained, some single military mothers do not have the resources to care for their children if they are called to deploy overseas to dangerous combat theaters.
A study found that “found that military mothers’ deployments can have a negative effect on the health and behavior of both the women and their adolescent children.” Probably more of your tax dollars at work for “grants” to prove the obvious.
A case in point, when ordered to Afghanistan, Army cook Alexis Hutchinson could not find anyone to care for her ten-month infant child. She refused to deploy. As a result, she was arrested and her child was placed in foster care.
Do the principles of women’s “liberation” embrace jailing mothers for refusing to leave their kids behind with strangers? If a woman is not free to care for her child, what kind of liberation does she have?
Initially, Hutchinson asked her mother, Angelique Hughes, to care for her child. Hughes had major responsibilities of her own, including caring for a sick sister and working.
“This is her child. This is her family, “ Hughes said. “This is her priority. The military is a job.”
Eberstadt suggests that it should not be impossible “for female service members who become mothers to adjust their lives accordingly without unduly harsh penalties, in keeping with what motherhood demands.”
No one can rightly conclude that women are not as brave as men. “The history of humanity and its literature and art abound with examples of extraordinary valor exercised by mothers in particular — typically, on behalf of their children,” Eberstadt writes.
In assessing the merits of this lawsuit, observers should consider if it is right to jail mothers for tending to their first priority, their children. That’s not liberating for anyone.
First published on Independent Women’s Forum in June 2012