For the first time in the 15 years since women were allowed to graduate from the Israeli Air Force’s prestigious flight school, female pilots in the IAF will be allowed to fly while pregnant.
“In 1995 the first female cadets arrived at the flight school and since then the IAF has gone quite a ways toward integrating women,” said Lt. Col. Dr. Yifat Ehrlich, the commander of the IAF’s flight medical unit, according to the Times of Israel. “There are combat airwomen now and their needs must be addressed.”
The change in IAF policy was announced in the IAF quarterly magazine. Starting this year, pilots will be allowed to fly until the 25th week of pregnancy, albeit with limited hours and an additional airman in the cockpit. Pregnant pilots will also be subject to a doctor’s screening before they fly and a monthly eye exam.
Dr. Ehrlich, the commander of the IAF’s flight medical unit, told the IAF quarterly that “today, it has been proven yet again, that if women want it, they can do it.”
The change culminates a long-term discussion about pregnancy in the IAF, and reflects a shift in medical opinion. The high-profile issue was discussed in October at the 61st International Congress of Aviation and Space Medicine (ICASM), led by Dr. Jossy Faktor of the Israel Society of Aerospace Medicine.
“It had been thought that it was dangerous for pregnant women to fly due to exposure to radiation in the higher atmosphere, but studies have shown there is only minimal exposure at certain altitudes and latitudes,” Faktor said at the time, according to the Jerusalem Post. “Most of us believe a woman can fly between their 12th and 26th week of pregnancy, but not afterwards, so [that] she is not in the air if there is a premature delivery.”
Faktor also noted that women serve in other capacities at airports well into their 34th week of pregnancy.
In 2001, Roni Zuckerman, the granddaughter of a leader in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, became the first Israeli woman to qualify as a fighter pilot, reports The Telegraph. The IAF’s change in policy regarding pregnancy is yet another progressive step made by the military branch, and a victory for gender equality advocates.