In December, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter lifted all gender-based combat restrictions. Now, the U.S. House Armed Services Committee has voted 32 to 30 for an amendment to the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which if passed by Congress, would require women age 18 to 26 to register for conscription for the first time in U.S. history. H.R. 4478 would amend the Military Selective Service Act by striking "every male citizen" and incerting "all citizens."
The bill's sponsor, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., voted against the amendment. The Iraq War veteran proposed it for the sake of starting a congressional conversation about the role of women in the military. "It's wrong and irresponsible to make wholesale changes to the way America fights its wars without the American people having a say on whether their daughters and sisters will be on the front lines of combat."
However, Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., supported the measure, commenting that if women want to be treated as men and not discriminated against, "We should be willing to support a universal conscription."
Combat roles are open to women in the U.S., Australia, Canada, France, Denmark, Israel, Germany, New Zealand and Norway. However, of those countries, only Israel drafts women, who are allowed to take a religious exemption, and one-third do. Other than Israel, only Bolivia, North Korea, Chad, Mozambique and Eritrea draft women into military service.
Since the Vietnam War, the United States has not held a military draft, yet continues to require all young men to register with the Selective Service within 30 days of turning 18. The Selective Service Act of 1917 was enacted to raise a compulsory army for the U.S. to enter World War I. The United States mobilized 4.3 million men for World War I, with 2.8 million men drafted. Previously, women were excluded from the draft because combat positions were not open to them.
In fact, the Selective Service Act of 1917, enacted by the 65th United States Congress, was put in place before women gained the right to vote. Women's suffrage in the United States was not granted until 1920 when Congress passed the 19th Amendment to the Constitution. Prior to that, the campaign for women's rights, and women's suffrage began 100 years earlier, winning victories with women's property rights beginning in 1839. Prior to that, married women could not own property, earn a salary or enter into contracts.
Now, not quite 100 years since women received the right to vote, should women be required to register for the draft? Once again, it will be elected representatives in Congress who will decide. For now, the debate is open. Starting the conversation, the Source asked men and women what they think about women being drafted, and the draft in general. Here are a few of the responses.
Readers Respond to Proposal to Women Being Drafted
"Having grown up in a military family, I have always felt that the draft is an emergency, last resort to mobilize a large fighting force that can be effective.(World War II would have been lost without it.) It was my father's experience having gone from a draft, Vietnam environment, to an all-volunteer service, that the all-volunteer environment is far more preferable and makes for a much more effective military. Women cannot pick and choose where they want gender equality to appear in our society. If they expect it at all, there should be no limitations. There are many examples in our military's past that have shown us how capable women are to serve."
~Missy McIntyre, 28
"I believe we have the most professional and admired armed services in the world, and that stems from having an all-volunteer force of professional soldiers. Using the draft to fill the ranks of the military would be a mistake, but if ever this country needed every able body to protect itself that should include every able body, regardless of sex, religion, or creed, so I support the selective service including women, but most importantly, hope we never need it. As a co-ed track coach I have no doubt gals are just as tough as guys, and on average much tougher."
~Brian Gettmann, 38
"First off, I am opposed to war and the draft. I think this is a complicated issue with all of the heat currently surrounding women's rights and equality in the workplace, which I am all for. However, I don't think all women are physically capable to perform all of the duties expected of a soldier. With that being said there are many women who are perfectly capable but categorizing all women into one category for the draft would be unreasonable. It all comes down to physical stature and in general women are much smaller than men, so drafting a 110-lb. women doesn't make sense to me. But I guess it is a step forward for equality for women? Maybe not forward but sideways."
~Megan Mooney, 24
"I feel like women have been fighting for a really long time to gain rights that are on a more equal ground with men's rights, and that opening all combat positions to women and requiring us to register for the draft does this. Albeit, in a very small arena for women's rights. I think the draft is antiquated and could be done away with, yet I understand the need for a plan B. Being as our military has been volunteer-based for many years and we have good numbers enlisted, it seems we could do without."
- Meah Cukrov, 28