In 2016, Senator John McCain (R-AZ) sponsored legislation that would have compelled women to register for the draft. Fortunately, the bill did not become law, though the Senate approved it, 85–13.1 But the issue is not dead.2 In June of 2017, Congress considered a similar measure.3 Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA), who supports the change, said, “It’s time to stop delaying the inevitable.” Her most recent amendment calling for such compulsion failed a House Armed Services Committee vote by a razor thin 33–28 margin this year.4
McCain says that compulsory draft registration for women “is the logical conclusion of the decision to open combat positions to women.”5 But it isn’t logical at all. Permitting female volunteers to serve in combat roles does not logically entail that unwilling women should be forced to serve in the military. Think about it. Does availing the corporate ladder to women compel them to climb it? Of course not.
Missing the larger issue, many opponents of this legislation point out that men and women are often not equal in physical strength. For instance, during his 2016 presidential campaign, Senator Ted Cruz (R-FL) said, “I’m the father of two little girls . . . They are capable of doing anything in their hearts’ desire, but the idea that their government would forcibly put them in the foxhole with a 220-pound psychopath trying to kill them, doesn’t make any sense at all.”6 Cruz has a point there. But does it even make sense to force a boy into a foxhole with such a psychopath?
Speier, for her part, gets it half right when she says, “If it does come to a draft, men and women should be treated equally.” Men and women do have equal, inviolable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Government compulsion to register for the draft or to serve in the military violates those rights. The government should not forcibly put anyone in a foxhole, a tank, or anywhere else. Justice is not served by making men and women equal victims of injustice.
A few members of Congress recognize this. Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) introduced an amendment to the 2016 bill that would have eliminated draft registration altogether.7 And Representative Peter DeFazio (D-OR) laudably argued, “It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, a woman or a houseplant—we need to abolish the Selective Service.”8
Absolutely. The Declaration of Independence enshrines every citizen’s rights. Our government should strive to protect equal rights for men and women, not engage in equal trampling of those rights. Instead of broadening compulsory draft registration or military service to include women, our government ought to abolish this abomination.