Senate Passes Defense Bill That Includes Women in the Draft

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The Senate passed a defense bill yesterday that will require women to sign up for Selective Service, and potentially be drafted in the future. The bill will place the existing requirements for young men on women as well, and the new rules will apply to any woman who turns 18 beginning in 2018.

Senator John McCain, who serves as the chairman of the Armed Services Committee stated:

The fact is 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 head of each military branch has also stated support for the inclusion of women in the draft.

The National Defense Authorization Act passed 85-13–some of the votes against it came from Republicans who oppose including women in the draft. Right now this provision is only in the Senate version of the bill–the House chose not to include it–so that will have to get ironed out before this even goes to President Obama for consideration. But it seems like a common-sense next step after the military has made moves to fully integrate women into combat. The debate over whether or not to include women in the draft really heated up this winter; check out our coverage back when the Senate Armed Services Committee heard testimony about the idea from top military officials.

But, the debate continues. Senator Ted Cruz, for example, spoke out against including women in the draft, saying:

It is a radical change that is attempting to be foisted on the American people. 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.

It’s important to remember that the draft hasn’t been used by the United States since the Vietnam War. But depending on the how the House responds, women may start having to sign up with Selective Service soon.

Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



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