The Senate has approved a military policy that would require women to register for the draft. Under the bill, women turning 18 on or after January 1, 2018 would be forced to register for Select Service, as men must do now. The key opponents to drafting women were mainly conservative law makers and interest groups but the bill received overwhelming support from Republican leaders and women in both parties.
Back in April, the House Armed Services Committee voted to approve a version of the National Defense Authorization Act, the mammoth yearly military budget, that included women in the draft. (The full NDAA appropriates $602 billion to the armed services, because the United States spends more on our military budget than any other country on earth and the next seven countries combined.)
But the conservative Republican Congressman who introduced the “draft women” provision doesn’t actually support it; Rep. Duncan Hunter of California intended it as “gotcha amendment,” because he didn’t think liberals would vote to draft women. He was trying to make some sort of curious point about how Democrats don’t really support integrating women into the military, specifically into combat roles. Hunter then proceeded to vote against his own amendment. It was all very odd.
However, including women in the draft was less controversial than Hunter believed, and the measure stayed in. On Tuesday, the Senate approved the NDAA 85-13.
“It is a radical change that is attempting to be foisted on the American people,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said. “The idea that we should forcibly conscript young girls into combat, to my mind, makes little or no sense. It is at a minimum a radical proposition. I could not vote for a bill that did so, particularly that did so without public debate.”
To be clear though, Cruz and Heritage Action, the conservative advocacy branch of The Heritage Foundation oppose drafting women because of sexist ideas about women’s roles and physical abilities. As we all know, women have served with honor and distinction in combat roles for years.
According to former Marine Corps servicewoman Jude Eden, “Combat is not an equal opportunity for women because they don’t have an equal opportunity to survive.” If women’s increased risk of injury makes them more vulnerable when engaging the enemy, why would Congress ever want to require women to be registered for the Selective Service, and ultimately the draft?
Supporters of the policy change say opponents are oversimplifying the issue. “What people don’t seem to understand is just because there is conscription, that does not mean that all women would serve in the infantry,” Senator Deb Fischer, Republican of Nebraska, said. “There are many ways to serve our country in the event of a national emergency.”
The bill will now be reconciled in a conference committee between the House and the Senate, where a contentious debate is expected.