Female soldiers being deployed to Afghanistan have been told by the British military to carry condoms following an alarming rise in pregnancies while on tour.
Although sexual relationships are allowed in the U.S. military, they are strongly discouraged, especially in a combat zone, with warnings that they "can have an adverse impact on unit cohesion, morale, good order and discipline."
In Februrary 2010, the U.S. Department of Defense added emergency contraception, also known as the “morning-after pill” to U.S. servicewomen who are already provided an extensive range of reproductive care, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a nonprofit organization focused on sexual and reproductive health research. Along with the emergency contraception, servicewomen also have access to contraceptive counseling, pelvic exams, HIV testing, condoms, and other contraceptive methods.
Officially, British military personnel are banned from having sex in a war zone. But, according to senior officers, a blind eye is turned if relations are between soldiers of a similar rank and do not impact operations.
An advertisement in an official Army magazine warns British soldiers to take protection because there will be an estimated “50 blokes to each woman.”
Figures show that 133 servicewoman became pregnant in Afghanistan and Iraq between January 2003 and February 2009. Condoms are already available at bases such as Camp Bastion, home to 8,500 British troops — including 700 women.
"Pregnancies are incredibly expensive for the Army,” Tory MP Patrick Mercer, an ex-Army officer, said. “One wonders why this sort of advert has only been used now."
A spokesperson for the British military said they “do not encourage sexual relationships.”
The U.S. military did not allow sexual relations between unmarried men and women in the combat zone, until the ban was lifted in 2008 by Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser, commander of Combined Joint Task Force-101.
Before the new order was signed, soldiers of the opposite sex were even barred from going into each other’s living quarters, with the exception of married couples.
There is no record of how many female U.S. soldiers become pregnant with fellow soldiers while serving overseas.