Women to register for military draft under proposed defense spending bill

A proposed defense spending bill — which just cleared a procedural vote in the Senate— includes a provision that would require women to register for the military draft.

The $768 billion National Defense Authorization Act of 2022 would require every person to register instead of just men.

The measure passed the House in September and could go before a vote in the Senate after Thanksgiving. 

However, the provision has stirred debate among some lawmakers. 

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According to FOX News, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. opposes the measure. 

"Most Americans say if a woman wants to serve that's wonderful – and by the way, women have been absolutely central to our war efforts since we have been a country, in many different ways, including of course fighting. But the idea that they be forced into compulsory service, I just think it's crazy," he told the outlet. 

"I know that's how the people of Missouri feel. The fact that the Democrats – this is one of their top priorities for a bill that's supposed to be about funding the military. What do they want to do? They want to force women to have to enter the draft," he continued.

"My view is that we have a force now that would not be as effective and efficient without women," Senate Armed Services Chair Jack Reed, D-R.I., told Fox News earlier this month. "I don't think that most women feel that they shouldn't register. I think they should."

Requiring women's registration has received bipartisan support in Congress, which mandated a commission that eventually backed the measure last year. The 11-member commission concluded it was "a necessary and fair step, making it possible to draw on the talent of a unified Nation in a time of national emergency."

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However, the idea has become less popular among Americans. In August, an Ipsos poll showed that 45% of Americans supported drafting women compared to 63% in 2016. Support also broke down along gender lines with men favoring the idea at 55% compared to just 36% among women.

In June, the Supreme Court said, for now, it’ll be up to Congress, not the court, to decide whether to change the requirement that only men must register for the draft. It’s one of the few areas of federal law where men and women are still treated differently.

In a statement, three justices said Congress is weighing whether to change the Military Selective Service Act, which requires men but not women to register for the draft when they turn 18. They said that was a reason for the court to kick the matter back to lawmakers.

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The question of whether it’s unconstitutional to require men but not women to register could be viewed as one with little practical impact. The last time there was a draft was during the Vietnam War, and the military has been all-volunteer since. But women’s groups are among those arguing that allowing the male-only requirement to stand is harmful.

The issue of who has to register for the draft has been to the court before. In 1981, the court voted 6-3 to uphold the men-only registration requirement. At the time, the decision was something of an outlier because the court was regularly invalidating gender-based distinctions in cases about other areas of the law.

Many of those cases were brought by the founding director of the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who became a justice in 1993.

FOX News and the Associated Press contributed to this report. This story was reported from Los Angeles.