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Debate Over Drafting Women Resurrects Arguments Concerning Combat Role


Now that women in the military are allowed to serve in combat zones, there is a chance that even women who do not enlist vountarily may find themselves in the heat of battle.

The US Senate last Tuesday approved a military policy bill that would for the first time require young women to register for the draft. The legislation, which had broad support among Republican leaders and women in both parties, must be reconciled with a House bill, which did not contain the military conscription provision. The White House has threatened to veto the broad legislation because of, among other issues, provisions concerning the military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, which the president wants to shut down.

The New York Times reported:

Under the Senate bill passed on Tuesday, women turning 18 on or after Jan. 1, 2018, would be forced to register for Selective Service, as men must do now. Failure to register could result in the loss of various forms of federal aid, including Pell grants, a penalty that men already face. Because the policy would not apply to women who turned 18 before 2018, it would not affect current aid arrangements.

“The fact is,” said Senator John McCain, Republican of Arizona and the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, “every single leader in this country, both men and women, members of the military leadership, believe that it’s fair since we opened up all aspects of the military to women that they would also be registering for Selective Services.”

The Supreme Court ruled in 1981 that women did not have to register for the draft, noting that they should not face the same requirements as men because they did not participate on the front lines of combat. But since Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter said in December that the Pentagon would open all combat jobs to women, military officials have told Congress that women should also sign up for the draft.

Expressing strong opposition to military conscription for women was former presidential candidate Ted Cruz, the Republican senator from Texas.

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