COMMENTS: Cucolo’s Pregnancy Ban is Watercooler Fodder

The nightly news agenda is already softening up, getting into the Christmas spirit. There was no consensus on the day's lead. NBC actually started with the non-newsworthy fact that the holiday build-up was under way. The Story of the Day was the prediction that the United States Senate would be in session until Christmas Eve debating healthcare reform--yet none of the three newscasts led with it. CBS chose the latest economic statistics from the real estate housing market. ABC, on Diane Sawyer's second day as anchor, picked on Gen Anthony Cucolo, who is in charge of 22,000 soldiers in Tikrit. The general has ordered that none of the 1600 women under his command may become pregnant while they are deployed in Iraq.

Sawyer's decision to lead ABC's newscast with Kate Snow's story on the ban on military pregnancies in the warzone displayed a morning show sensibility. It is the type of story that sparks plenty of debate around the watercooler--debate about sex and gender roles in a workforce--yet affects very few people. Only four pregnancies have occurred in defiance of Cucolo's order; those women have received no punishment more severe than a reprimand; and they have been sent home from the battlefield just as they would have been had conception not been forbidden.

At the other two networks, Pentagon correspondents NBC's Jim Miklaszewski and CBS' David Martin were assigned to cover Cucolo. Of the three reports, only Miklaszewski's pointed out that the military healthcare system covers neither emergency contraception nor abortion. So even if Cucolo's orders were disobeyed unintentionally, by an unplanned pregnancy, the army would not help that woman stay in the warzone if she wanted, which was the rationale for Cucolo's regulation.


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