Despite defeat in Congress, advocates say they will continue to push for women to join the project

This was the closest the United States has come close to requiring women to enroll in selective service: The House of Representatives and the Senate Armed Services Committee approved the historic change as they debated the annual defense spending program for 2022.

Then, earlier this month, it was deleted in closed-door negotiations.

Selective service is one of the last federal laws where men and women are not treated equally. Men are required to register once they turn 18, which means they could be forced into the military if Congress and the President ever reinstate the project.

Support for the requirement for women to register has gathered unlikely political allies. Democratic Senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York, a member of the Armed Services Committee, called it an issue of gender equality and national defense.

“To say: ‘Only men are needed’ at this time of national emergency is outrageous and obscene,” Gillibrand said at a December 8 press conference. In a statement, she said she would continue to follow “all legislative avenues to implement this policy” through annual defense spending or a stand-alone bill.

Joni Ernst, Republican senator from Iowa and military veteran, also supports the measure. Ernst said a conscription is highly unlikely and a force made up entirely of volunteers is preferable, but women would be essential in any future conflict. Ernst said a woman won’t necessarily fight on the front lines.

“She could choose to serve in the infantry if she met the standards,” Ernst said. “She could also serve in a cyber unit, where she sits behind lines where she is safe, but certainly works to disrupt the enemy. All of these jobs are important.

The call to include women in selective service has gained momentum as women have broadened their footprint in the military, intensifying six years ago when women were allowed to serve in roles. of fight. While Congressional Democrats are broadly united on the issue, Republicans are divided.

Georgia Republican MP Marjorie Taylor Greene told a House Rules Committee meeting in September that women would be unfairly disadvantaged if forced to fight.

“Men and women are not physically the same,” Greene said. “And women don’t have an equal chance of surviving on the battlefield in direct combat with seasoned men. And I can say that as a woman who can lift 300 pounds, can do more pull-ups than anyone else in this room, and run faster than any of you.

Other critics say women play an important role on the home front during the war, such as raising families.

Jagmeet Mac

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American waterfront

In a 2015 photo, Selective Service analysts Vince McClure (right) and Cristine Nguyen demonstrate the machines that would determine who would be enlisted if the United States reinstated military conscription.

In a 2015 photo, Selective Service analysts Vince McClure (right) and Cristine Nguyen demonstrate the machines that would determine who would be enlisted if the United States reinstated military conscription.

The push to require women to sign up for selective service reflects a report last year from a commission that Congress created. He concluded that the federal government kept selective service in place as a last resort in the event the United States faced a threat too great for the all-volunteer military to handle. He also recommended that women be required to register.

Former Republican Congressman Joe Heck of Nevada, chairman of the commission, said one of the main reasons the commission made the recommendation was the lack of young people who could qualify for military service.

“70% do not meet standards, whether due to mental health issues, drug use, height / weight issues, poor physical performance, [or] poor academic performance, ”Heck said.

With the provision now removed from the defense spending bill, Heck said Congress had shirked responsibility.

“[The] The committee returned a report with a recommendation that both houses accepted in their respective drafts, only to then withdraw it as a political maneuver, ”Heck said.

Meanwhile, some feminist groups are calling on Congress to collectively dismantle the selective service system. CODEPINK is an anti-war group formed in 2002 as the war in Iraq approached. National Director Carley Towne said supporters of expanding selective service were using “false feminist language.”

“This is based on the idea that gender equality means expanding the possibility for women to be forced into the US military,” Towne said. “Our opinion is this: abolish it for everyone. This is true gender equality.

This summer, the Supreme Court dismissed a case that the all-male selective service was discriminatory. The judges said the issue was up to Congress. Former Congressman Joe Heck is hoping the Supreme Court will now reconsider the matter.

“I think now the case is common to go back and ask the Supreme Court to say, ‘Congress refused to act. Now what are you going to do? ‘”

This story was produced by the American Homefront Project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. Funding comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Copyright 2021 North Carolina Public Radio – WUNC

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