Selective Service Repeal Act introduced in Congress
Anti-conscription activists light a draft classification card on fire on the steps of the Capitol in Washington, Jan. 10, 1967. | Charles Tasnadi / AP

The Selective Service Repeal Act of 2021 (H.R. 2509 and S. 1139) was introduced in Congress on April 14 with bipartisan support in both the House and the Senate. If passed, it would end draft registration and abolish the Selective Service System altogether.

“No young person, regardless of gender, should be subject to a military draft or be forced to register for a draft in the United States,” Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., co-sponsor of the bill, said while introducing it.

“The military draft registration system is an unnecessary, wasteful bureaucracy which unconstitutionally violates Americans’ civil liberties,” DeFazio declared. “We should be abolishing military draft registration altogether, not expanding it.”

Republican Senate co-sponsor Rand Paul of Kentucky said, “If a war is worth fighting, Congress will vote to declare it, and people will volunteer.” DeFazio and Paul were joined by Rep. Raymond Davis, R-Ill., and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore.

Other co-sponsors of the bill include Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C. Residents of the District of Colombia, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. territories are subject to the military draft. Still, they have no voting representation in Congress, only nonvoting “Delegates” to the House of Representatives, like Holmes Norton.

The Selective Service Repeal Act would repeal the Military Selective Service Act in its entirety and eliminate the presidential authority to order registration for a military draft. It would abolish the Selective Service System, including the data center, national and regional offices, and local draft boards that have been appointed and trained for every county in the U.S. Federal sanctions related to failing to register for Selective Service would be repealed, also pre-empting state sanctions for not registering.

The same day the Selective Service Repeal Act was introduced in Congress, the Biden administration filed its brief in the Supreme Court asking the court not to consider a case challenging the constitutionality of the current Selective Service registration requirement. The Supreme Court’s decision on whether to hear this case is expected in May or June. If the court takes the case, it will be argued in the fall.

The administration’s argument against Supreme Court review is based primarily on judicial “deference” to political and military decisions. But we need more judicial oversight, not less, over decisions to wage endless, unlimited, undeclared wars.

The administration’s brief to the Supreme Court mentions the possibility that Congress might try to expand draft registration to women. Still, it ignores the possibility that Congress might end draft registration altogether. Both options could be considered part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022, consideration of which will begin shortly in the House and Senate Armed Service Committees. The future of Selective Service registration deserves full hearings and public debate, not just a fast-track decision in closed-door markup sessions, as part of that process.

The Selective Service Repeal Act has already been endorsed by organizations including the Center on Conscience & War, World Beyond War,, CODEPINK, Truth in Recruitment, the Military Law Task Force of the National Lawyers Guild, Friends Committee on National Legislation (FCNL), American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Just Foreign Policy, Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft (COMD), Pax Christi USA, Courage to Resist, Peace Action, and the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship. More organizations are expected to join in support of this bill.

World Beyond War and CODEPINK have both set up web forms you can use to email your U.S. representatives and senators. Urge them to co-sponsor the Selective Service Repeal Act (H.R. 2509 and S. 1139) and ask the House and Senate Armed Services Committees to hold full and fair hearings that also hear from anti-war and anti-draft witnesses, and to act promptly on this bill.

This article is an edited version of a story originally published in Draft Resistance News.


Edward Hasbrouck
Edward Hasbrouck

Edward Hasbrouck is a member of the Authors’ Rights Expert Group of the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), a member of the National Writers Union, and a consultant to The Identity Project on travel-related human rights and civil liberties issues. He is the author of The Practical Nomad travel book series. He was imprisoned in 1983-1984 for organizing resistance to draft registration.