A trio of female leaders representing grassroots organizations with a national presence spearheaded a Capitol Hill briefing on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) earlier this month to illustrate, once more, that the abortion agenda has hijacked the women’s movement, to the detriment of what women truly want and need.
Facing a renewed push for passage of the ERA, Eagle Forum and Students for Life of America (SFL) sponsored a briefing for legislators and their staff because, although the legal deadline has long passed and proponents of the ERA failed to win the hearts and minds of Americans, the abortion lobby is in full swing trying to create a constitutional foothold for abortion within the ERA.
The ‘Everything Related to Abortion’ Act
Yet fundamental problems exist with the ERA proposal, which should be renamed the Everything Related to Abortion Act. As the Daily Beast recently reported: “The ERA would provide the framework for an equality argument: Women’s equality necessarily requires reproductive and bodily autonomy, and without control over our bodies, women cannot participate as full and equal citizens in this country.”
Such phrasing is code for abortion, something feminists in the ’70s understood as well. Betty Friedan, one of the founders of the modern pro-ERA movement, stated in her March 1978 letter to the International Women’s Year Conference delegates: “The ERA has become both symbol and substance for the whole of the modern woman’s movement of equality. Further, I am convinced if we lose this struggle for the ERA, we will have little hope in our own lifetime of saving our right to abortion.”
But the ERA was unnecessary for protecting women’s great need for access to the full benefits of society and protections from unique harms. In the context of the times, many laws other than ERA were advanced to protect women’s interests in a society that had too often ignored their needs. But those laws that would be in danger should the ERA pass.
In a letter coordinated by Students for Life, leading pro-family and pro-life leaders reminded the legislators in Virginia (who recently ended the push for ERA) that women-friendly laws would suffer if the ERA were ratified. The letter noted:
ERA specifically states that a person’s sex could not be considered in making a legal preference. With that in mind, consider the many protections designed for women that would be impacted and harmed including the Equal Pay Act of 1963; the Civil Rights Act of 1964; the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972; the Federal Minimum Wage Act of 1974, and the Pregnancy Nondiscrimination Act of 1964.”
In fact, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote in Sex Bias in the U.S. Code that the ERA will change 800 federal laws … The financial impact on women is incalculable, and ERA will do nothing to focus attention on sexual crimes against women, as a focus on women would be discouraged.
The ERA Is Wholly Unnecessary
Equality for women has already been found in the Constitution. Ginsburg was an attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union when she wrote the plaintiff’s brief in a case that made women’s constitutional rights clear in Reed v. Reed, finding that the 14th Amendment did apply to both men and women.
Passage of the ERA would open a Pandora’s box of litigation, beginning with the fact that the legal deadline for passing the ERA has long been missed, and even since that deadline, some states have reconsidered and pulled their support. Serious problems exist with the legal status of the proposal, making Congress a logical next stop as ERA advocates try to fix the issue of the lapsed expiration date.
Then there is the controversy surrounding taxpayer funding of abortion. Already, state supreme courts have found that ERA-like laws at the state levels do require taxpayer funding of abortion, something that most Americans oppose and would also be hotly contested by pro-life advocates in court.
Consider that “Every justice on the New Mexico Supreme Court agreed that this classic ERA language mandates taxpayer-funding of abortions. The unanimous court held that a state ban on tax-funded abortions “undoubtedly singles out for less favorable treatment a gender-linked condition that is unique to women.”
If the ERA truly is not about abortion, but is only a measure for women’s access and rights in society, a compromise does exist. Pro-life leaders have advocated that a line be added, noting: “Nothing in this article [the ERA] shall be construed to grant, secure, or deny any right relating to abortion or the funding thereof.” Not surprisingly, abortion advocates have opposed this language.
The ERA Is an Attempt to Prop Up the Abortion Lobby
In our briefing, we addressed the question “Is Equality Equal?” noting that the stated goal of helping women won’t be met, but rather the interests of the abortion industry will win with this radical move.
Abortion is not the key opening the door to women’s advancement. Educational opportunity, access to capital, fair treatment in the workplace, and aggressive law enforcement attention to crimes against women are just a few things that truly put women on a level playing field with their fellow citizens.
But should ERA win passage, the result would be a dramatically empowered federal government on issues it decides impact women. Consider the words of Phyllis Schlafly, who championed women’s interest while opposing the ERA, when she debated Friedan on “Good Morning America” in 1976.
Now I don’t think we are going improve things by letting (the federal government) decide these things, which is what ERA will do. It transfers these authorities to the federal government … It was back in 1875 that the Supreme Court said that the women have all the constitutional protections. In the case of Minor vs. Happersett, we have all the constitutional protections that men have and the ERA is not going to add any more Constitutional protections, but it will cause all kinds of nonsense.