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ACLU Claims The All-Male Draft Is Unconstitutional: What Does This Mean For Women?

By Luna Salinas··  8 min read
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ACLU Claims The All-Male Draft Is Unconstitutional: What Does This Mean For Women?

In the name of equality, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has issued a petition to require not just men, but women as well, to register for the draft.

Back in late February, The Hill reported on a petition created by the National Coalition for Men, and issued by the ACLU, that reads, “The question presented is whether, in light of the Department of Defense having lifted the ban on women in combat [in 2013], this Court should overrule [Rostker v. Goldberg] and hold that the federal requirement that men but not women register for the Selective Service, authorized under 50 U.S.C. § 3802(a), violates the right to equal protection guaranteed by the Fifth Amendment.”

The formal petition continues, “Thousands of women have since served with distinction in combat positions across all branches of the military. It is time to overrule Rostker. The registration requirement has no legitimate purpose and cannot withstand the exacting scrutiny sex-based laws require. The Department of Defense and the National Commission on Military, National, and Public Service (“Commission”) unequivocally acknowledge that requiring women and men alike to register would ‘promote fairness and equity’ and further the goal of military readiness.”

This begs the question, how will this affect women, especially when tensions with China are at an all-time high? And will this force the military to lower its standards further, especially when such standards are already being challenged today for not being inclusive enough?

Is This the Kind of Equality Women Wanted?

Whether or not this is a win for women depends on who you ask. One Reddit user wrote in response to a recent post about the petition, “Uhm, no. One of the privileges I am allowed to enjoy as a woman is that I do not have to worry about being drafted into military service.”

Senator Ted Cruz expressed a similar sentiment back in 2016, with concerns for his young daughters in mind: “We have had enough with political correctness, especially in the military. Political correctness is dangerous, and the idea that we would draft our daughters to forcibly bring them into the military and put them in combat, I think is wrong. It is immoral and if I am president, we ain’t doing it...But the idea that their government would forcibly put them in a foxhole with a 220-pound psychopath trying to kill them doesn’t make any sense at all.”

Historically, women either opposed the draft altogether or opposed women specifically being required to register for it. 

This concern is heightened when you think about the United States’ unrelenting military presence in the Middle East, along with the general misogynistic sentiments that persist there. Kayla Mueller was an American humanitarian who wasn’t involved directly with any Middle Eastern conflict, and yet she was kidnapped, held hostage as a sex slave, and ultimately murdered by the Islamic State. Sadly, women face unique challenges (and dangers) when being put in combat situations where they may face being taken as a prisoner of war.

Other groups oppose the expansion of the draft, just because they oppose the draft itself. One petition was formed in order to oppose it, and it garnered over 25,000 supporters.

Congress Considered Drafting Women during World War II

Historically, women either opposed the draft altogether or opposed women specifically being required to register for it. Both the House and Congress considered drafting women for the Second World War, which spurred the creation of the Women’s Committee to Oppose Conscription (WCOC) in 1943. 

The chairwoman of the WCOC, Dr. Georgia Harkness wrote, “Objection to the conscription of women...ought not to proceed from the assumption that chivalry requires the shielding of women from hardship. There is no reason for objecting to it either on the basis of special privilege of sex or of the exemption of anybody from the hard requirements of our time.”

Some claimed that women being in the military would put them “back under the complete control of men.” 

Meanwhile, other members of the WCOC reportedly did oppose the draft on the basis of gender. Some claimed that women being in the military would put them “back under the complete control of men.” 

WCOC director Mildred Scott Olmstead argued on a radio broadcast: “Women have fought for years for the right to be free from the domination of men — the right to be educated, to vote, to marry or not to marry as they want, to work...The army gives [women]...opportunity to do only minor jobs. They would have no real influence in the army, and no freedom, and they know it.”

Lowering Military Standards Hurts Women

Late last year, the Department of Defense announced the release of the Department of Defense Board on Diversity and Inclusion Report, “Recommendations to Improve Racial and Ethnic Diversity and Inclusion in the U.S. Military,” and its resulting implementation plan.

“The most effective fighting force necessitates inclusion and full engagement of all Department assets — foremost, every member of the Total Force. Diversity and inclusion make us a stronger, better, and more effective military” said the Chief Pentagon spokesperson, Jonathan Hoffman.

The entire U.S. Army population already consists of 39% minorities and is 18% female.

One alarming recommendation was the fourth, “Remove Aptitude Test Barriers That Adversely Impact Diversity.” Among other things, the army aptitude tests are designed to measure a person’s ability to work under pressure, their numerical and logical reasoning skills, and their ability to think critically. Under what logical, sensible circumstances would we want to allow people who aren’t capable of doing this? We need to keep the barrier to entry high, so that those who are truly qualified can be in the military.

Additionally, the fact that aptitude tests should be altered because they presently impact diversity is a curious notion, given that the entire U.S. Army population consists of 39% minorities and is 18% female.

us army demographics chart

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What does lowering the standards say about the women and the minorities the Army presently has? Are they not good enough, and is it only easier for said minorities to make it if the standards for tests are lower?

The standards for physical tests are also being altered in order to promote diversity in the Army. In light of many women failing the Army’s physical assessment, there’s been consideration to do away with the current practice of using a “gender-neutral test” (almost as if men and women are biologically different).

No one should be in the Army just because they want to. They need to present a dedication to the job, and that includes being able to meet a physical standard. Should we find ourselves in a hot war that requires we activate the draft, so many women would find themselves in trouble. Myself, for instance — I lift weights and do cardio at least three times a week, but that’s not enough at all for me to be able to save other people. If I needed to carry a fellow soldier, there’s no way in my current state that I could do that.

Lower female standards reinforce the belief that women can’t perform the same job as men.

Captain Kristen Griest, the Army’s first female infantry officer, wrote last month that “lowering fitness standards to accommodate women will hurt the Army – and women.”

Griest wrote, “Under a gender-based system, women in combat arms have to fight every day to dispel the notion that their presence inherently weakens these previously all-male units. Lower female standards also reinforce the belief that women cannot perform the same job as men, therefore making it difficult for women to earn the trust and confidence of their teammates. The original ACFT promised some respite from these perceptions, but a reversion to gender-based scoring threatens to validate them. While it may be difficult for a 120-pound woman to lift or drag 250 pounds, the Army cannot artificially absolve women of that responsibility; it may still exist on the battlefield.”

Closing Thoughts

Requiring women to register for the draft the same as men could backfire, in ways that we’re already seeing today like with the Army altering its standards in the name of diversity and inclusion. While some may think that this is harmless, since the last time the draft was imposed was for the Vietnam War, we shouldn't take any of these decisions lightly.

Should strained relations with Iran or China result in a hot war that requires issuing the draft once more, do we really want to lower the standards for entry into the military? And would it hurt or help women to require them to register for the draft when that hasn’t been a practice before, in times of peace?

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