Top Defense Department officials allowed a pregnant Naval Academy midshipman to graduate in May, the first known such case in the 33 years women have been admitted to the school.There is more of a story here, but it is what it is - let's wish the best for the mother and child to be.
The woman, whom the Navy would not identify because of privacy concerns, is now an ensign, but she was reassigned from her original sea duty to a shore tour because of the pregnancy, Navy spokesman Cmdr. Cappy Surette said.
“There were unique circumstances surrounding this case, to include the fact that she had completed all academic requirements for graduation,” Cmdr. Brenda Malone, spokeswoman for the chief of naval personnel, wrote in a statement.
The woman’s parents came to Annapolis to meet with her and the administration to discuss her options, the source said. Under academy regulations, she could take a yearlong leave of absence and return to finish her coursework, or resign and be required to pay back the cost of her education, about $150,000. Regulations also state that if a follow-on pregnancy test shows that she is no longer pregnant, she can stay at the academy. The policy does not explicitly spell out abortion as an option.
Complicating this situation, the source said, was that the midshipman was engaged to the baby’s father and they planned to marry within a month of her graduating. If she took the leave of absence, she would spend the interim still a midshipman, forbidden from marrying, meaning the wedding would have to be canceled and her child born out of wedlock. Also, when the issue came to light, the woman had two exams left, meaning she would spend a year away from Annapolis, then return to take just two tests.
Rather than take one of the options, the midshipman and her family lobbied for an exemption so she could graduate, be commissioned, and be married, the source said.
May’s pregnant midshipman became the fourth since 2005 to require a waiver to graduate because of parental responsibilities; the three earlier cases were men who fathered children.
Four women since 2005 have taken yearlong leaves of absence to have babies, and two have resigned. There was no information immediately available on how many times the administration has learned a woman was pregnant, been shown proof she ended her pregnancy, and permitted her to continue at Annapolis.
The Naval Academy Midshipman Regulation Manual's policy on pregnancy and parenthood states: “Parenthood is defined as having legal, financial or custodial obligations for a child or children, as determined by court adjudication, self-admission, or other evidence. Any Midshipman who becomes pregnant, causes the pregnancy of another, or incurs the obligations of parenthood, must report the condition to their Chain of Command.”
“Midshipmen who become pregnant and choose not to resign will be allowed to go on a leave of absence of no more than one year. Midshipmen who are pregnant or have incurred the obligations of parenthood and who fail to resign or request a leave of absence will be separated,” according to the manual.
Going back to the front of the post - actions have consequences. The Navy needs to update its regulations now if this is the direction we want to go in. It should also be clear-eyed about what this means. Everyone can feel good about the decision right now - but think about the second and third order effects on a Navy at war. As long as you understand that - then keep smiling; but in order to maintain integrity and credibility, change the standard.
Just remember, we are not IBM, we are not Lockheed Martin, we are not the University of South Carolina.