by Christy Yao
“Equality of Rights Under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex."
Sounds good, right? What could go wrong?
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) has been creating a lot of controversy in recent weeks. The ERA was originally proposed in 1923 by Alice Paul, and was passed by both the house and the senate in 1972. The same year, 22 of the 38 states needed to add the amendment to the Constitution voted to ratify it. The original deadline for states to ratify the amendment was 1979. At that point, 35 states had ratified the amendment. Because only three more states were needed, the deadline was extended to 1982. The ERA then lost momentum due to a campaign to block the amendment led by the self-declared anti-feminist Phylis Schafly.
The ERA has picked up more traction in recent years, with Nevada ratifying the amendment in 2017, followed by Illinois in 2018. Virginia ratified in January of this year, giving the ERA the 38 states it needs… well after the 1982 deadline. This prompted the House to vote on Thursday, February 13 to put the ERA into the constitution. The motion passed 232-183.
Now why would anyone not want the ERA? Well, this seemingly just amendment could have dire consequences. Many pro-life politicians, legal scholars, and organizers fear that the amendment would open the flood gates to banning restrictions on abortion. Representative Doug Collins of Georgia says, “This is an open door to abortion on demand with no restriction, no government interference- in fact, governments will pay for it.”
Under the Equal Rights Amendment, any sex-based law would be unconstitutional. According to the Lozier Institute, laws banning abortion could be seen as a sex-based because only people with female anatomy can become pregnant. An article in the 1971 Yale Law Review by ERA lawyer Thomas I. Emerson implied that the ratification of the ERA would mean abortion on demand. In 1983, James Sensenbrenner wanted to put an abortion neutral clause in the ERA, but advocates of the amendment voted no. The state courts of Connecticut, Alaska, Arizona, Indiana, New Jersey, New Mexico, and Colorado have used similar legislation to justify taxpayer-funded abortions. According to Feminists for Life, the ERA could put abortion for all nine months in the constitution, as well as legalize tax-payer funded abortions.
Alice Paul, the co-author of the original Equal Rights Amendment, was strongly pro-life. Paul described abortion as the “ultimate exploitation of women”, and said the ERA being linked to abortion had destroyed her life work. We must keep the dream of the early feminists alive by supporting legislation that empowers both women and children. We need to reject the modern ERA, while keeping Alice Paul’s vision alive. We need to work towards a world where both women and our unborn children are given the rights that we deserve.