Women's Group Urges Navy to Keep Ban on Females in Submarines

| by
WASHINGTON --- Concerned Women for America (CWA), the nation's largest public policy women's organization, is disappointed in recent statements by Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus indicating their wish to lift the ban on women serving aboard submarines. Admiral Mullen advocated the policy change in written congressional testimony on Friday. Navy Secretary Mabus said he was "moving out aggressively on this."

"Unlike any other assignment in the U.S. Navy, the submarine service is a hazardous environment for women of child-bearing age," noted CWA President Wendy Wright. "No other assignment exposes women to a constantly recycled atmosphere of carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide, and more than 200 potentially toxic chemicals. Those contaminants remain even with filtering. While normal adults can adjust to this environment, a developing child in the first trimester cannot, and the levels of carbon dioxide that crewmembers are exposed to can be linked to birth defects. Also, no study has been done to determine the impact of this environment on a woman's fertility.

"Another serious consideration is the threat to the life and health of the women assigned to submarine crews should an ectopic pregnancy occur. These cases, about four out of every 1,000 women per year, can be life-threatening situations that demand evacuation," Wright said. "For a great many women, the acute symptoms of an ectopic pregnancy are their first indication that they are even pregnant. Pre-deployment pregnancy testing is not a silver bullet either, since tests may not give a positive reading in the earliest stages of pregnancy.

"Along with the medical issues, there are very real social and psychological difficulties posed by mixing the sexes in the 'Silent Service,'" Wright added. "Military readiness and cohesiveness will be affected, and commanders will have the added difficulties of harassment and fraternization to deal with, which are inevitable in this situation of confined quarters with extremely little privacy. National security is the Navy's primary mission, not advancing women's careers."

Concerned Women for America is the nation's largest public policy women's organization.