Last week, we talked about the inconvenient fact of modern life for women—that is, that women’s fertility peaks at exactly the time they’re most likely to be pursuing all the other exciting things they want to accomplish in life: a career, education, travel, or whatever makes ‘em tick.
This couldn’t be more true for women in the military. If you’ve been reading our blog, you know that women’s eggs are never healthier than when they’re in their 20s. And according to Military Times, the majority of enlisted personnel are under the age of 35, with nearly half under the age of 26 and another 22% aged 26–30. That includes a growing number of women; women now make up a much greater share of the active-duty military than they have at any time in US history, comprising 16% of all enlisted personnel in 2013.
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Plus, the military is an inherently dangerous workplace. Injuries to the reproductive organs could cause infertility even in young servicemen and women—and data shows that over 1,300 veterans suffered this kind of injury in the past 13 years.
That’s why we have to applaud Secretary of Defense Ash Carter’s decision to launch a fertility preservation program for military personnel. Along with other great initiatives, like better maternity and paternity leave and child care options, enlisted women will now be able to use military benefits to cover the cost of their egg freezing procedure and storage while they’re on active duty.
Carter says the two-year pilot program, which could eventually be made permanent, is meant to provide “peace of mind” and “greater flexibility” for service members, while acknowledging that they’re spending their most fertile years in a demanding, high-risk occupation. And women in the military are currently retained at a rate 30 percent lower than men after 10 years—the peak age for starting a family for most enlisted women. So it’s also reasonable to assume that smart policies like this could encourage more women to pursue military careers—and we’re all about opening doors for women in every capacity.
We’re not alone in our praise. ASRM, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, hopes to see more governmental organizations offer the benefit. “We think this country has an obligation in its power to keep its military members whole,” said spokesman Sean Tipton in The New York Times. “And building families is certainly part of being whole.”
Read more on this new policy in The Atlantic.
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