Many people, including myself, thought that the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) died when it failed to be ratified by enough states. However, I recently discovered that the amendment is on life support with hopes of total revival.
The ERA was introduced in 1923 soon after American women won the right to vote. It languished for 26 years until the Senate approved the amendment in March 1972. It then went to the states and was given seven years to be ratified by 38 states. The deadline was extended to June 1982, but the amendment failed to win enough states.
I thought that the ERA was dead but recently learned that it still lives – if only in the minds of progressives. As this opinion piece emphasizes, no one questions the right of women to be treated equally, but there is cause for concern when even avowed feminists have concerns.
There are two significant challenges with the ERA:
First, there are far-reaching unintended consequences that could ultimately harm women. It could, for example, change family law – including child custody rights in divorce – impact abortion law and potentially draft women into military service during times of war.
The second is a procedural problem for a proposed amendment that was not ratified when it was introduced in the 1970s. Serious doubt remains whether the expired amendment can be picked up more than 40 years later and whether recent state votes in favor of it, in addition to the states that have since rescinded their votes, are valid….
The Equal Rights Amendment also risks constitutionalizing abortion once and for all. Since, under the ERA, governments arguably couldn’t treat abortion differently than any other medical procedure performed on a man, certain state abortion regulations would likely be struck down as unconstitutional….
Some of today’s concerns were the concerns of those who fought against the ERA in the 1970s and 80s, but some of them are new. Valerie Hudson describes herself as a “feminist scholar” and a “dyed-in-the-wool feminist,” and she has concerns. The proposed amendment states, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” Hudson wants the term “sex” to be debated. Does “sex” mean male and female? She says that the wording in all federal laws must be changed to “sex (including sexual orientation and gender identity) if the ERA passes. She wants clarity on the term. Her second concern is about the possibility of women being drafted into the military during war time. If the ERA passes, there would be no legal grounds to continue the policy of drafting only males. This means that our daughters and granddaughters could be drafted into the military during war time.
Like Pandora’s Box, the ERA gleams and shines on the outside but holds the possibility of much danger on the inside. Those who are pushing for an ERA do not appear to know all the possibilities that could turn into big problems. They want what they want, and they want it now – no matter who gets hurt. Americans need to go slow on this possible amendment.