Letter: Pregnant servicewomen

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The Independent Online
Sir: I am writing to refute a point in your article (6 April) concerning pregnant servicewomen.

I can confirm that the 'express intention of avoiding the creation of orphans' was not the reason for the policy of discharging pregnant servicewomen. Prior to 1990, it had been the long-standing policy of the services to discharge women when they became pregnant, as pregnancy was considered incompatible with service life, particularly given the need for personnel to serve around the world, sometimes in arduous conditions. For virtually all of this period women were not serving in the front line and were not therefore exposed to the increased risks that such service can attract.

It is only since 1989 that women have had the opportunity to serve in combat roles, thereby increasing the risks that they face. Since 1990, however, it has been possible for those servicewomen who have become pregnant to take a period of maternity leave, should they not wish to leave the service, returning to duty after the birth of their children. Servicewomen with children are of course expected to continue to meet their full range of duties.

Yours faithfully,

JEREMY HANLEY

Minister of State for the Armed Forces

Ministry of Defence

London, SW1

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