Women can do most things as well as men. Almost nobody disputes that now. Women can do some things better than men. Many women thought Donald Trump as president would be a disaster for the final female assault on the glass ceiling. It hasn't quite turned out that way, and women, such as U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, have been stars of his new administration.
But two of the things women have not done so well are soldiering and, by the most recent evidence, "sailoring." Women, with some exceptions, may not be cut out for making war. But this new evidence demonstrates that they're uniquely efficient at making babies.
New statistics obtained from the U.S. Navy by The Daily Caller — which had to sue under the Freedom of Information Act to get them — reveal that 16 of 100 women afloat in 2016 were reassigned from ships to shore duty due to pregnancy.
These figures are up 2 percent from 2015, and hundreds more have cut their deployments short, which makes for a high cost to combat readiness and deep effects on budgeting and manpower (which, of course, includes "womanpower"). These figures cast a deep shadow over the Obama administration's goal of making the sexes ("genders," in the preferred politically correct nomenclature) equal in numbers and every other way, which explains why the Navy doesn't want to talk about the flight of the stork.
Women are reassigned to shore duty far more frequently than men — twice as often by the Navy's own figures — and this is particularly costly to the Navy, as it anticipates dramatic expansion under President Trump's plans to restore the military to top fighting strength. Jude Eden, author of several books about women in the military and a Marine veteran of the Iraq War, was quoted in The Caller as saying that the training and subsequent transfer of a pregnant woman from ship to shore costs the Navy up to $30,000, and such transfers cost the Navy a total of $115 million in 2016 alone.
"This is an avoidable cost and expense," Eden tells the Daily Caller, "leaving a gap for other people to pick up the work slack."
Elaine Donnelly, president of the Center for Military Readiness; a member of the Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services during the Reagan administration; and a member of The Presidential Commission on the Assignment of Women in the Armed Forces under President George H.W. Bush, agrees.
"A pregnancy takes you out of action for about two years," she explains. "And there's no replacement. Everybody else has to work all that much harder. On small ships and submarines you really have a potential crew disaster."
There's colorful precedent for such disaster. When the USS Acadia, a supply ship, was on deployment during the Gulf War in 1991, 36 women in the crew of 360 were transferred to shore duty because they came home in a family way. A Navy spokesman insisted, despite persuasive evidence readily at hand, that there was no evidence that anyone broke regulations prohibiting sexual relations between men and women while on duty. To the consternation and embarrassment of Navy brass, the Acadia was christened "The Love Boat" by the press, inspired by a popular television series about high life aboard a cruise ship.
The Navy, like other branches of the military, not long ago considered pregnancy incompatible with military service, and women who became pregnant were routinely discharged. But that was then, and with the dawn of the all-voluntary military, the services, including the Navy, provide many incentives to both men and women, as it must recruit to fill its ranks. Benefits to keep the volunteers flowing include free housing, medical care, educational and recreational opportunities and extras for women — free natal care, day care, counseling and special education for children with disabilities and "other needs."
Evidence of the difficulty of mixing the sexes in intimate surroundings is routinely given short shrift, and the findings are routinely suppressed. The Navy, for example, publishes findings from studies called "Navy Pregnancy and Parenthood Survey." Summaries often ran to a hundred pages. From 2012 on, the Obama administration reportedly limited these summaries to two or three pages. One civilian who worked on them says full summaries were written but never made public.
Navy sailors have said for years that some women who are happy with shore duty deliberately get pregnant to avoid deployment aboard ships. "There do seem to be coincidences," says Donnelly. "There's lots of anecdotal evidence. The information is considered so sensitive. You just don't talk about it. It's something everybody knows occurs. You don't ask, and you don't tell."
Being ready for action has always been a goal of every military in the world, and a knocked-up Navy doesn't sound ready — unless it's with an enemy that promises it won't shoot.