By Regina Salmons
Regina Salmons is a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania studying English.
Women have been an integral part of our military for as long as the United States has existed as a country. Women unofficially served as cooks and nurses during the Revolutionary War and the Civil War, and were formally allowed to join the military as nurses and in other non-combat roles during World War I. Over the years, and throughout various international conflicts, women have slowly become more and more integrated into the American military, as the country’s national defense needs call them to service. Just this past December, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announced that starting in January 2016, all positions in the military would be open to women, as long as they met physical standards. Despite a request from the Marine Corps for certain exceptions, Carter affirmed that women can now fill any position—from driving tanks, to firing machine guns, to leading infantry soldiers into battle, all jobs that women were not allowed to perform before January.  Having women in the military has long been refuted and contested, but in 2016, we have seemingly left any doubts behind.
The military must often deal with controversy, and as heated as the debate about incorporating women was, the discussion of the draft brought about similarly intense reactions. With women in the process of becoming fully integrated into the military, many people are wondering why women should not be subjected to the draft as well. If women can serve in any position that men can, what is to say that they should not be called to action by the process of the draft as well? By allowing women to be drafted, are we not ensuring that the best candidates to serve and protect our country are chosen? On February 2, General Neller of the Marine Corps and Army Chief of Staff General Milley spoke before Congress on the issue, endorsing the idea that the draft should include both genders. There has been backlash to these testimonies, which presidential candidate Ted Cruz called “immoral,” as well as further support for the proposal to draft both genders. 
However, this endorsement contradicts the statement given on the Selective Service System’s website, which outlines the policy of the draft. As of now, the website declares that the Constitution justifies excluding women from the draft, as only registering men does not violate the Due Process Clause.  This declaration is in direct reference to the Rostker v. Goldberg Supreme Court case in 1981, when Justice William Rehnquist delivered the court’s opinion, declaring that judges should not intervene in military operations. Instead, he said that it is in the hands of Congress to raise an army, in the best way they see fit, for the United States as needed. 
But the question also remains as to whether it is constitutional to leave the draft men-only, or whether the draft is by nature inherently unconstitutional, regardless of the parties involved. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery and adamantly declared that no person should serve involuntarily or against his or her will, so some may consider that the draft goes in direct violation of this statement. The Constitution also states that Congress has the power to raise an army in a time of need. However, if one is either ideologically or religiously opposed to serving, being drafted to serve in that army would be a direct violation of the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The draft has not been instituted formally since the Vietnam War, yet it remains a contemporary issue. As a country, we must decide how we see commitment to our military. Who is responsible for our protection, and what does that entail? As citizens, are we required to serve in military positions if called upon, or are we constitutionally endowed to pursue happiness in whatever way we see fit?
 "All Combat Jobs Open to Women in the Military." MilitaryTimes. Web. 16 Feb. 2016.
 "Women and the Draft." Taking Note Women and the Draft Comments. Web. 15 Feb. 2016.
 "Women and the Draft." Selective Services System. Web. 16 Feb. 2016. <https://www.sss.gov/Registration/Women-And-Draft>.
 "Rostker v. Goldberg." LII / Legal Information Institute. Web. 16 Feb. 2016.
Photo Credit: Flickr User Israel Defense Forces
The opinions and views expressed through this publication are the opinions of the designated authors and do not reflect the opinions or views of the Penn Undergraduate Law Journal, our staff, or our clients.