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10% of Women on Navy Ship Return Pregnant

April 27, 1991|NORA ZAMICHOW | TIMES STAFF WRITER

About 10% of the female sailors assigned to the San Diego-based destroyer tender Acadia during the Persian Gulf conflict returned home pregnant, Navy officials said Friday.

The Acadia steamed into San Diego Friday, completing an eight-month stint in the Gulf. The ship was the first local vessel to deploy with women crew members after the onset of Operation Desert Shield. Its crew of 1,250 included 360 women.

During the deployment, 36 women were sent home because they were pregnant, said Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Smallwood. Of the 36 pregnant women, nine were pregnant when the ship steamed out last September. Another five, assigned to the ship from another duty station, arrived and discovered they were pregnant, Smallwood said.

The pregnancy rate is lower than than the civilian average--16%--for the age group of 20 to 24 year olds, and it is about half what the Navy would expect to see among its female population, Smallwood said.

Because the ship left San Diego almost six months earlier than it was originally scheduled, some women may not have realized they were pregnant or may have planned their pregnancy, believing they had more time than they actually did, Smallwood said.

"The ship left in September, and there were plenty of opportunities for that (pregnancy) to happen," said Smallwood, who acknowledged that there were liberty calls at Singapore, Thailand and Philippines. "Our feeling is women have a right to get pregnant."

The pregnant women were transferred from the ship because Navy regulations require that they be assigned within six hours' traveling time of an obstetrician.

The whole issue of pregnancy aboard the vessel is a thorny one that will "irritate the women who want to be accepted as professionals," Smallwood said. "They did a lot of significant accomplishments, they worked very hard and did a tremendous job. Their performance was outstanding. They worked just as hard as the men did."

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