(CNSNews.com) - At an event to discuss the merits of lifting the ban on women serving in combat units in the U.S. military, a retired Army sergeant said that hygiene issues are not a problem, including menstrual cycles, which she said can be regulated or eliminated by using birth control.
“Women can use hormonal birth control to regulate or eliminate their periods during deployment,” Kayla Williams said in remarks on Thursday at the Center for National Policy in Washington, D.C. “It’s just not that hard.”
Williams and Michael Breen, a former U.S. Army officer and executive director of the Truman National Security Project, argued that the new policy would strengthen the military and that hygiene and privacy were not legitimate reasons to oppose the change.
“What about the hygiene issue?” Williams said. “Look, frankly I don’t even know what that means.
“People say this in this hushed tone as if the vagina is a secret,” Williams said. “If women died without access to indoor plumbing, the human species would not have survived long enough to develop showers.”
Williams said the military already has equipment designed to make hygiene easier for women in the field, including the female urinary device, or FUD, that allows women to urinate while standing or void into a bottle.
Breen said privacy concerns don’t really exist in combat scenarios.
“My own experience in combat with a bunch of different units tells me that all of these worries for guys go out the window, basically, as soon as you are in an environment like that,” Breen said. “You just stop caring. And I realize that that may be difficult to understand. This is an environment where concerns like who sees who go to the bathroom in the field. This is just not at the top of your mind.
“Believe me,” Breen said. “You’re looking for sleep. You’re looking for food. You’re trying not to get your head blown off.”
Privacy was a concern, however, when the Defense Department issued a memorandum on Jan. 13, 1994, which ruled that “women shall be excluded from units below the brigade level whose primary mission is to engage in direct combat on the ground.”
The memo went on to list the restrictions, including the need for privacy and skills “where job-related requirements would necessarily exclude the vast majority of women Service members.”
The fact that women would be required to spend long periods of time in the field with men was also cited as a reason for women not to serve in combat units.
Two times in the memo it is stated that this ban would be “expanding opportunities for women” by more clearly defining combat units as the one area where females could not serve.
In a press release distributed at the event, the lifting of the combat exclusion rule is described as a decision that “brings policy in line with reality.”
The press release states that more than 280,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, with some 150 women killed while serving and more than 800 who received the Purple Heart for being wounded while deployed.