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7 soldiers – 4 women, 3 men – have been punished so far in army general’s pregnancy ban

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Can pregnancy be a punishable offense? And if so, is that automatically discrimination, or could it actually be a fair action?

That’s the question surrounding the recent orders from Maj. Gen. Anthony Cucolo, who commands U.S. troops in northern Iraq. Cucolo, who says he can’t afford to lose soldiers to pregnancy at a time when troops are stretched thin, promises to discipline both the pregnant soldier and her partner, even if they are married, up to and including the action of a court martial.

And he’s making good on his promise.

Stars and Stripes reports today that seven soldiers, including three men, have been punished so far.

Four soldiers have found to be pregnant since the orders were issued in November. They have not been court-martialed, but disciplined at a lower level, the report said.

The orders apply only to the 22,000 soldiers under Cucolo’s command. Of those, 1,682 are women. Previously, pregnant soldiers were sent home.

"I need every soldier I've got, especially since we are facing a drawdown of forces during our mission," Cucolo wrote in a statement obtained by CNN. "Anyone who leaves this fight earlier than the expected 12-month deployment creates a burden on their teammates. Anyone who leaves this fight early because they made a personal choice that changed their medical status -- or contributes to doing that to another -- is not in keeping with a key element of our ethos."

More from the Stars and Stripes story:

“The four soldiers who became pregnant were given letters of reprimand that will not

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