If you haven’t been paying attention lately, you might have missed a controversy crop up about an issue that I imagine most Americans did not realize was controversial.

Over the last week, prominent military and political leaders have called for requiring all American women to register for the selective service – that is, potential military conscription.

To clarify: we are apparently now contemplating a future national emergency in which young women – as young as teenagers – are taken against their will, sent to boot camp and off to war… while eligible, able bodied young men are not.

As the father of a teenage daughter, as a husband and a brother and a Christian, I’m going to say this as politely as I can: this is completely unacceptable.

The United States has been blessed with millions of women who have served in our armed forces, since even before the founding of our nation. Today there are more such heroes than ever. They carry out their duty with distinction and honor us with their courage in every branch of our armed forces.  

But voluntary service and the draft are entirely different things.

Advocates of adding women to the selective service say that the policy must be changed now because the Pentagon has opened combat jobs to women. Equal is equal, they say.

But equal is not interchangeable. Five thousand years of human civilization should be enough evidence to persuade us of this immutable fact. But if not, we also have reams of empirical data, including a massive study recently conducted by the Marine Corps.

War is hell, and the capacity to meet the physical demands of ground combat are not equally distributed among our species.  Therefore societies who value their security select soldiers for their speed, strength, endurance, and other attributes that add up to destructiveness and lethality. Such militaries deter, shorten, and win wars.

That history’s successful soldiers are also almost exclusively young men is not a matter of privilege or discrimination or politics.

It is a question of human nature and human survival – the same reason husbands (and not their wives and kids) are expected to grab the baseball bat and investigate strange noises in the middle of the night.

But of course, the empirical case against conscripting women only points toward the moral case: men are supposed to protect women and children, not the other way around. Everyone in all three groups knows this, however unfashionable it may be to say in some places.

Being forced to register for the selective service is not a “right” women today are denied. It is a violent duty our daughters, sisters, mothers, and wives do not share.

Selective service is not a question of what our society allows women to do, but what our society forces women to do against their will. And civilized societies blessed with enough able-bodied young men to meet their security needs do not conscript women, or anyone else, to do it in their place. Period.

Obviously, I feel very strongly about this.

But there are honest differences of opinion on this issue, with respected voices on all sides. Some say the right policy now is to end selective service altogether. Some want to add women, but only as a contingency. Some say women might be drafted, but precluded from combat positions.

This is an unsettled debate. So it’s a decision that should be made by the American people’s elected representatives – not unelected bureaucrats or judges.

And so, when Congress returns from the upcoming President’s Day recess, I will introduce legislation to make sure that’s how this decision gets made. My bill – which will be cosponsored by my good friends Senators Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio - does not change the requirements for selective service registration. It simply says that any future change can only come by an act of Congress.

I hope all my Senate colleagues, on both sides of the aisle and all sides of this question, join us. Because regardless of what decision we make, we should all be able to agree that it’s “we the people” who should make it. 

Op-ed originally published in Conservative Review