Pregnancy in the U.S. military has been a proverbial "hot potato" since WWII and the services never did really know how to deal with it until much later. Women's Army Corps regulations, for example, made it quite clear - "An enrolled woman... will be discharged if she becomes pregnant... Pregnancy will be included on the daily sick report as sickness "not in line of duty."
In 1951 Executive Order (EO 10240) signed by President Harry S. Truman gave the services permission to discharge a woman if she became pregnant, gave birth to a child, or became a parent by adoption or a stepparent. The military took it as an ironclad mandate. Regulations were written and military women who became pregnant were summarily discharged.
When recruiting slacked off and women became more aware of their rights under the law the military revisited the pregnancy issue. In 1971 they instituted a policy of waivers of discharge for pregnancy. They also changed the enlistment rules so that women with children were no longer automatically excluded from entering the service. The military was still experiencing a loss of their enlisted women annually to pregnancy and parenthood. To alleviate this the Department of Defense instructed the services to develop and implement policies of voluntary separation for pregnancy and parenthood. Of course the powers that be objected with concerns about availability for deployment and potential loss of duty time, but they had to comply by 1975. Military women instigated litigation on this issue in the courts. In 1976 the 2d District Court ruled that a Marine Corps regulation requiring the discharge of a pregnant woman Marine violated the Fifth Amendment due process clause because it set up an irrefutable presumption that any pregnant woman in uniform was permanently unfit for duty.
Finally In the late 1970s, shortly after the decision was made to permit women who became pregnant to remain in the military, maternity uniforms were developed by each service.
In today's military pregnancy is neither an illness or an affliction and young mothers-to-be serve with pride and are given the best medical care in the country.
But what about the many exceptional women who were automatically banished as having a "sickness not in the line of duty"? Women who chose to serve voluntarily and then were summarily dismissed. Women deprived of their rights.
Fortunately, a grass roots organization is trying to rectify this situation. The "Fifth Amendment Sisters" are working towards legislation that will "right the wrongs" done such women involuntarily discharged from all branches of the military, specifically between 1942 and 1976 - for pregnancy.
H.R. 5447 was introduced into the 107th Congress on September 24, 2002 by Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney of Georgia. Despite heavy dealings with terrorism and impending war, H.R. 5447 moved quickly until it reached the Education and Workforce Committee, Gary Mohoumed, the legislative aide who works directly for Ohio Congressman John Boehner, the chairman of this committee.
It was Gary Mouhoumed's opinion that women "do not belong in the military" and "lost all their rights when they enlisted."
"Congressman Boehner and this Committee will never see this bill."
It was this same opinion and archaic discriminatory practice that discharged women for pregnancy that has also led them to this legislation. It will be the very reason the nation realizes how this group of women are still plagued and still suffer as a result of their wrongful discharges.
In addition, Congresswoman McKinney did not get reelected. Therefore, this legislation will have to be reintroduced into the 108th Congress.
Ask your Senators to introduce this bill into the Senate and support it fully. Then ask your Congressperson to introduce it into the House and fully support it. This is long overdue.
It is only fitting and proper these women be recognized and apologized to in The Tyler-Bender Mandatory Discharge Relief Act that the Fifth Amendment Sisters are trying to reintroduce and pass in the 108th Congress and House.
Any female discharged for pregnancy from the military contact the undersigned. Anyone who knows of such female discharged from the military for pregnancy please direct them to us or send us their contact information.
Thank you each and everyone.
For further information on how to help with The Tyler-Bender Mandatory Discharge Relief Act, contact:
Carolyn Tyler or Joshua Bender
"We are yesterday's voices in an unfinished revolution." -Carolyn Tyler, founder Fifth Amendment Sisters
"When women still live and suffer the consequences of involuntary discharge from the military, real and current contemporary America must shoulder responsibility for those wrongs until such wrongs have been adequately addressed." - Joshua Bender-Dubiel, son of CW2 Mary V. Bender who passed away January 10, 2002 from Agent Orange illnesses. She served almost ten years in the Army with three tours in Vietnam. She was injured during an interrogation of a prisoner when his body explosive went off. Refusing the purple heart she remained on duty as an intelligence officer until her untimely, involuntary discharge for pregnancy on 2/14/72. During the 1968 TET Offensive Mary's heroic actions kept the intelligence office in Saigon from being overtaken. She was awarded a letter of accommodation which reads in part, "Your actions are worthy of the Silver Star but because you are a woman it cannot be given to you." Mary Bender was refused burial in Arlington until her son, Joshua found the Fifth Amendment Sisters. Their advocacy has made her funeral the most controversial one to this day at Arlington. In addition, her story opened the doors to the media which has allowed America to know the "best kept secret" the military ever had.
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