Pregnant Airmen Get More Privacy Under New Air Mobility Command Policy

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Sydney Sherwood displays her 28-week baby bump next to the 17th Training Wing’s newly implemented Expectant Mother’s front row parking outside of the Norma Brown building, on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas.
Goodfellow member Sydney Sherwood displays her 28-week baby bump next to the 17th Training Wing’s newly implemented Expectant Mother’s front row parking outside of the Norma Brown building, on Goodfellow Air Force Base, Texas, Sept. 3, 2020. (Senior Airman Abbey Rieves/U.S. Air Force photo)

Pregnant airmen with Air Mobility Command will now have more information about their gestation kept private from their units, under a new policy directive. 

The new policy allows airmen to access necessary medical care while still keeping the information about their pregnancy under wraps from their superiors, similar to rights under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

"Pregnancy is the only medical condition identified in profiles, personnel and readiness systems, making the diagnosis accessible to the unit before some women are able to process the news, determine viability, or even notify their own families," Capt. Frances Castillo, the lead on the Air Force Women's Initiatives Team, said in a press release. 

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Knowledge of the pregnancy will be now brought to the attention of "limited leadership" and the base "health authorities" instead of having that information accessible to the whole unit, according to an Air Force news release.

Airmen will now be given a 30-day profile that documents mobility, duty and fitness restrictions only. 

Commanders have also been directed to minimize automatic recipients of Air Force forms that dictate flying status and to strictly protect medical information from unauthorized disclosure.

"As part of maintaining operational readiness, units must be notified of mobility, duty, and fitness restrictions," Castillo said. "However, the medical diagnosis driving those deferments should be kept private, similar to every other medical condition, so women are empowered to decide when to make their pregnancy public."

The revised policy for Air Mobility Command comes after a 2021 Air Force Inspector General Report pointed out that maternal bias was one of the primary reasons women did not feel included in the ranks. 

"Themes included maternal bias, perceptions that pregnancy and maternity leave negatively impact mission accomplishment and delay training, females receiving backlash for pumping breast milk at work, and being overlooked for career opportunities," the report detailed.

That report also showed that one in four women delays pregnancy testing because of worries that their organization would take action that could harm their careers. 

Gen. Mike Minihan, head of Air Mobility Command, said the new policy about pregnancy information is just one of many that need to happen for airmen. 

"The Air Force is addressing systemic changes, but until those changes are implemented, I expect everyone under my command to maximize the privacy, health, and readiness of pregnant Airmen," Minihan said in a press release.

The Air Mobility Command policy is just the latest change the service has made with women in mind. 

In the past two years alone, the service has seen longer hairstyles authorized for women, and the development of a maternity flight suit and a wrap-style dress for pregnant airmen.

It also follows policies issued in 2019 that allowed women with uncomplicated pregnancies who are in remotely piloted aircrew, missile operations duty crews and certain pilot positions to enter the cockpit without additional restrictions and unnecessary approvals. 

-- Thomas Novelly can be reached at thomas.novelly@military.com. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.

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