Monday, July 20, 2009
In what may be a first, the U.S. Naval Academy graduated a pregnant midshipman on May 22, a move that ran contrary to policy that middies not marry or begin a family while attending the school. The academy, citing medical privacy, will not identify the woman, who received her commission and is now a Navy officer, according to Joe Carpenter, an academy spokesman. “Initial duty assignments are the responsibility of the Navy,” Carpenter said in an email to Military.com. “For reasons of privacy, it would be inappropriate for the Naval Academy to discuss the details of this individual’s service assignment.” Carpenter did not say how far along in her pregnancy the woman was at the time of graduation, but said the academy became aware of the midshipman’s pregnancy in early May. According to the academy’s Midshipman Regulations Manual, a midshipman who becomes pregnant and chooses not to resign will be allowed to take a leave of absence for no more than one year. Those who become pregnant but do not resign or request the leave will be separated, the manual states.The same rules also apply to a midshipman who “incurs the obligations of parenthood,” so that a male midshipman would face the same choices. In this case, however, after the academy determined the midshipman would not be eligible to graduate and be commissioned, the woman submitted a waiver asking to be exempted from the policy, according to Carpenter. “That request was evaluated through the chain of command,” he said. “[Defense Department] and Navy leadership approved the midshipman’s request for waiver.” Carpenter said he did not know if there have been other instances of Annapolis graduating pregnant midshipmen. More than a decade ago, in what was then seen as a “softening” of Naval Academy regulations, midshipmen facing parenthood could request returning to the school after a one-year leave of absence if they gave up the child for adoption, according to a November 1995 Washington Post report. Before then, the report stated, female midshipmen had to choose between expulsion or having an abortion. Male midshipmen would have to deny paternity in order to remain at the school.