The top Republican on a House subcommittee pointed out Tuesday that, contrary to proponents’ claims, recent pushes to ratify the 1972 Equal Rights Amendment would benefit the pro-abortion movement. During a hearing of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties, Ranking Member Mike Johnson, R-La., pointed out that groups on both sides of the debate agree that ERA ratification would be a big win for abortion.
But before we get into that, you may be wondering why in the world this decades-old, expired ratification effort is in the news again. Well, though the original 1972 proposal didn’t get the support of the 38 states it needed, even after Congress extended the original deadline, the states of Nevada and Illinois passed their own ratifications in 2017 and 2018, respectively.
To get the amendment passed without restarting the entire ratification process from the beginning, ERA proponents need one more state to sign on and some kind of workaround to lift the congressionally imposed deadline. Some proponents of the amendment argue that Congress could simply vote to lift the ratification deadline, as does a 2013 Congressional Research Service report. Others argue that the Constitution didn’t give Congress the power to set a deadline in the first place.
Earlier this year, pro-lifers in Virginia mobilized against efforts to resurrect the amendment in the Old Dominion. “The only reason to pick the ERA off the dusty floor of history is because of a fierce desire to protect abortion at all costs,” Students for Life of America executive vice president Tina Whittington said of Virginia’s ERA efforts. “The ERA is out of sync with this century where women are already protected as equals in our legislation and the courts.”
But the amendment has indeed made it off the dusty floor of history and found its way back to the halls of Congress, which brings us to Tuesday’s hearing.
During Tuesday’s hearing, subcommittee Chairman Mike Johnson, R-La., responded to proponents’ “bold contention” that the ERA “has nothing to do with abortion” by stating that “pro-abortion groups are clearly saying now” that an ERA “would mean the end of laws that protect the sanctity of every human life.”
As proof, he cited a recent article from the National Organization for Women, which says “an ERA – properly interpreted – would negate the hundreds of laws that have been passed restricting access to abortion care and contraception.”
He went on to list a 2019 Planned Parenthood legal complaint that argues that Pennsylvania’s ERA invalidates state-level abortion laws and should therefore allow for Medicaid-funded abortions, as well as a recent document from NARAL Pro-Choice America.
— Right to Life (@nrlc) April 30, 2019
“The ERA would reinforce the constitutional right to abortion,” reads a March 2019 email alert, which adds that an ERA “would require judges to strike down anti-abortion laws.”
“Look,” Johnson concluded, “the fact is that now there is essential agreement between pro-life and pro-abortion groups that the language of the 1972 ERA is likely to result in a powerful reinforcement and expansion of abortion rights.”
The full hearing can be viewed here, and Johnson’s statement begins at 2:10:45:
In addition to Johnson’s examples, a 2018 post at the Daily Beast from pro-abortion journalist Stephanie Russell-Kraft explains: “A right to abortion based on an Equal Rights Amendment wouldn’t be about the abortion procedure itself. It would be about women’s ability to live equally as full citizens under the law.”
After the hearing today, Russell-Kraft also discussed the strategy of trying to sell the ERA by divorcing it from the issue of abortion.
“I understand the political strategy of avoiding abortion, to get the
#ERA passed,” she tweeted. “But opponents are raising that concern no matter what. What do we lose when we talk about gender equality without including reproductive rights?”