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Reproductive Health: Command Notification of Pregnancy

Command Notification of Pregnancy

Q1:

What is the Department’s policy on command notification of pregnancy?

A:

This policy standardizes and extends the timeframe for Service members to inform their commanders about a pregnancy.  Service members may now choose to delay command notification of a pregnancy until no later than the 20th week of pregnancy, except in certain circumstances. Learn More

Q2:

Why did the Department decide to allow Service members to delay notification of their pregnancy until the 20th week?

A:

Service members will be provided the time and flexibility to make private health care decisions in a manner consistent with the responsibility of commanders to meet operational requirements and protect the health and safety of those in their care. Service members who delay sharing their pregnancy status with their commanders will be placed on a limited duty status (as appropriate), as recommended by their treating health care provider. Additionally, there are some exceptions that may apply, based upon individual circumstances of the Service member, a potential upcoming deployment, or unit hazards. These safeguards balance Service member desire for privacy with their health and well-being, as well as unit and mission needs. Learn More

Q3:

What information does a patient need to provide, if seeking abortion care due to a sexual assault or incest?

A:

DOD providers must have a "good faith" belief that the patient is a victim of rape or incest to perform the abortion. Service members are not required to make a formal report or engage with the Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Program or Family Advocacy Program (FAP) to be eligible for an abortion, although providers are still required to notify the Sexual Assault Response Coordinator (SARC) or FAP that they are treating a patient who reports they are a victim of sexual assault, so that the SARC or FAP can inform the victim of services and reporting options. FAP clinicians are required to report suspected child abuse/child sexual abuse directly to local civilian child welfare services. There is no requirement that the health care provider inform the SARC or FAP that the patient requested an abortion. DOD providers should engage MTF legal counsel and MTF leadership, as well as subject matter experts within SAPR Program or FAP, if there are concerns about making a "good faith" belief determination. However, providers must not attempt to gain information from other sources in making their good faith determination (other than a consultation with SMEs as noted above) or compromise an adult patient's reporting options by notifying the chain of command, or law enforcement, unless otherwise indicated in DODI 6310.09 or advised by MTF legal counsel.

Q4:

As a Commander, what is my role with the new pregnancy privacy policy?

A:

Commanders must protect the privacy of protected health information, and information shall be restricted to personnel with a specific need to know.

Q5:

My position requires me to make mandatory notifications, such as those related to domestic abuse or sexual assault. Does this new pregnancy privacy policy prevent me from making such notifications?

A:

No. Any DOD personnel required to make mandatory notifications, such as those related to domestic abuse or sexual assault, in accordance with application DOD or Military Department/Service regulations, must do so. However, those required notifications must be done without disclosing the Service member’s pregnancy status.

Q6:

As a Service member, what are the circumstances that would require me to notify my command of a pregnancy prior to the 20th week of pregnancy?

A:

There are military duties, occupational health hazards, and medical conditions where the proper execution of the military mission outweighs the interests served by delaying commander notification of a pregnancy. If the DOD health care provider makes the notification to a commander, the Service member will be notified prior to the command notification except in exigent circumstances. A commander will be notified of a pregnancy prior to the 20th week if:

  • The Service member is in a position pre-identified by Military Department/Service regulations as having mission responsibilities or being subject to occupational health hazards that would significantly risk mission accomplishment.
  • The treating DOD health care provider has determined that there are special medical circumstances that require earlier notification.
  • There are other special circumstances, determined on a case-by-case basis by a DOD health care provider, where the military mission outweighs the interests served by delaying notification.

Q7:

As a Service member, are there circumstances where my DOD medical provider would be required to notify my commander about a pregnancy?

A:

Health care providers may only disclose information to commanders in specific circumstances, such as when the Service member’s duties will adversely impact the health and well-being of the Service member and the pregnancy. Health care providers will be required to discuss risks with Service members and recommend a limited duty status for all Service members opting to delay their notification, unless an exception applies. If the DOD health care provider makes the notification to a commander, the Service member will be notified prior to the command notification except in exigent circumstances. To address whether the Service member’s preference to delay notification is possible, health care providers will discuss risks with Service members who may be adversely impacted if they delay notification.

Last Updated: January 30, 2024
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