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Santorum clarifies: Men will become too emotional if women serve closer to combat

"I do have concerns about women in frontline combat," Santorum said to CNN's John King Thursday night. "I think that could be a very compromising situation 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."

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But when questioned Friday morning about the implications of his remarks, Santorum rephrased. The former Pennsylvania senator said he was calling into question the stability of a man's protective instinct rather than a woman's emotional ability to handle combat.

"That's exactly what I said," Santorum said on the "Today Show" Friday morning. "I think that when you have men and women in combat, I think men have emotions when you see a women in harm's way I think that's something that's natural that's very much in our culture to be protective. That was my concern, I think that's a concern with all the military."

The Pentagon announced Thursday its decision to relax restrictions against women serving alongside men in combat, opening up 14,000 new jobs to women, according to defense officials.

Under the new terms set to take action this spring, women would be allowed to serve in combat battalions under specialties already available to women and in roles that require “co-location” with combat units.

But the decision was met with mixed response as women lawmakers and military leaders said the agreement was good, but not good enough.

“I am very disappointed the Department of Defense has not repealed its direct combat unit assignment prohibition,” Rep. Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), an Armed Services Committee member, said in a statement, “instead choosing to open a few positions at the battalion level to basically create a pilot program, which I believe is ridiculous, considering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were a pilot in themselves.”

The emotional capability of women to handle the hardships of the fonts lines has been a topic of discussion surrounding the Pentagon's new policy. But Santorum said the protective nature of men is something that is both universal and compromising to a soldier's safety, citing Israel's military restrictions as proof of his reasoning.

"The Israeli military, for example, has a lot of women in a lot of roles, but they don't allow women to be engaged in combat because of that reason," Santorum said, "of that natural inclination to not focus on the mission but to try to be in a position where you might want to protect someone because, again, that's something that's natural in our culture."