(WASHINGTON) -- Wednesday’s announcement that women will be allowed to serve in combat was hardly the first time the subject has come up.
When it cropped up during the Clinton administration, it drew opposition from the likes of then House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who offered a now-infamous medical assessment of why it was a bad idea to let them fight.
“Females have biological problems staying in a ditch for 30 days because they get infections, and they don’t have upper body strength,” The New York Times quoted Gingrich as saying in early 1995. Men, on the other hand, ”are basically little piglets; you drop them in the ditch, they roll around in it.”
More recently, Rick Santorum caused a minor controversy by bringing “emotions” into it.
“I do have concerns about women in front line combat. I think that could be a very compromising situation where, where people naturally, you know, may do things that may not be in the interests of the mission because of other types of emotions that are involved,” he told CNN in February 2012, in the heat of the GOP presidential primary.
He later clarified.
“I was talking about men’s emotional issues; not women,” Santorum told ABC soon after. “I mean, there’s a lot of issues. That’s just one of them.”
Opponents of women serving unrestricted have always risked offending their political adversaries, regardless of whether their words blow up into controversy.
“What I think was most troubling to us was less the comments of pundits and more the policy in place,” said one attorney who has pressed the Pentagon on female service, saying the combat-service ban sent a “message that … women were somehow less than” male soldiers.
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