Is it time to stop barring women from combat?

Civil rights activists and female soldiers challenge a policy that prevents women from serving in infantry units

U.S. Army soldiers salute during a 2009 memorial service
(Image credit: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The American Civil Liberties Union and four women who served in Iraq or Afghanistan filed a lawsuit on Tuesday to end the ban on women in combat. The women, two of whom were awarded Purple Hearts after being wounded in action, said the military is moving too slowly to open up more roles to female soldiers, especially since many women have already been tested in battle in a decade of overseas wars. The military keeps 238,000 positions, about a fifth of all military jobs, off-limits to women. The Pentagon says it's constantly reviewing the restrictions and opening new positions to women, but that the decisions impact military readiness so they should be made by generals, not the courts. This is the second suit this year challenging the policy. Is it time to drop the ban altogether?

Yes. Gender discrimination has no place in today's military: The reality of modern warfare is that women serve in combat every day, says Melissa McEwan at Shakesville. They go on patrols, and in places like Iraq and Afghanistan, where battle lines are blurry, they're already fighting and dying on the front lines. "The very least we owe women who are willing to risk their lives to protect their country" is to give them the "equal standing" the Constitution promises them.

"Women at war"

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No. The policy saves lives: The ACLU wants judges to impose its "liberal agenda on the armed forces," Elaine Donnelly of the Center for Military Readiness tells WND. These servicewomen deserve respect for their service, but their experiences are nothing like what they would go through in a "tip of the spear" infantry battalion. In those units, women would undermine our military readiness because they simply "do not have an equal opportunity to survive, or to help fellow soldiers survive."

"Women sue to be grunts in foxholes"

The drawbacks are real, but it's still time to change: I get the arguments against letting women serve in ground combat, says Melinda Henneberger at The Washington Post. It could create romantic distractions, and make sexual assault, already a huge problem in the military, even more common, due to the stresses of combat. "Yet the solution cannot be keeping women out of the sight of male soldiers," especially since one of the things we're fighting for is new freedoms for Afghan women.

"Women in combat: Fewer stars, but the bombs are just as deadly"

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