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Santorum: Concerns about "emotions" if women on front lines

Pennsylvania Sen. Rick Santorum. AP Photo/Jeff Roberson

After the Pentagon announced Thursday its decision to allow women in the military to serve in critical roles closer to the front lines of combat, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum expressed "concerns" about this prospect of women serving in combat roles - due to the "other types of emotions that are involved."

"I want to create every opportunity for women to be able to serve this country" Santorum said in an interview with CNN.

But, he said, "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."

Santorum went on to say that while "probably, you know, it already happens, of course," due to the "camaraderie of men in combat."

But he said that if women were also serving on the front lines, "it would be even more unique."

"And I think that's probably not in the best interests of men, women or the mission."

In an interview with NBC's "Today" show on Friday, Santorum clarified the remarks, noting that he's not concerned with women being emotional -- but rather that their presence on the field could impact men's decisions in battle.

"When you have men and women together in combat, I think there's, men have emotions when you see a woman in harm's way. I think it's something that's natural. That's very much in our culture, to be protective," he said. "That was my concern. I think that's a concern with all of the militaries."

According to the new Pentagon guidelines, women can be permanently assigned to battalions in roles such as medics, radio operators, intelligence officers, or communications officers. In practice, women have already been serving in these roles in temporary positions, but the new rule formalizes this practice, effectively opening up about 14,000 jobs.

Still, women may not yet serve in combat roles on the front lines. The new rules maintain a ban on women serving in infantry roles, as well as in combat tank units and in special operations commando units.