Pro-life groups slam House vote to remove ERA deadline

Women in favor of ERA. | Florida Memory Project/public domain

Pro-life groups rebuked members of the U.S. House for voting to remove the ratification deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment, which they argue would enshrine the right to abortion on demand into the U.S. Constitution. 

The House voted 222-204 to remove the 1979 ratification deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment Wednesday, which is billed as a necessary measure to ensure equal rights for women in the U.S.

Four Republicans joined all Democrats in voting to nullify the ratification deadline: Reps. John Curtis, R-Utah, Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., Nicole Malliotakis, R-N.Y., and Tom Reed, R-N.Y.

Pro-life groups quickly reacted unfavorably to the vote.

"The so-called 'Equal Rights Amendment' may as well be called the Abortion Rights Act, as it would usher in extreme policy implications by enshrining a 'right' to abortion in the U.S. Constitution alongside the foundational principles of our great nation," warned Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of the pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List. "Abortion is the greatest violation of human rights in our day — the clear antithesis of equality."

In an interview with The Christian Post, Mallory Quigley, vice president of communications for SBA List, elaborated on the implications of the ERA: "What's most concerning about the ERA is that it has the power to negate every single federal and state law limiting abortion because it would do this on the basis that pro-life laws are allegedly discriminatory against women because women are the only ones who can undergo an abortion and are therefore impacted disproportionately by pro-life laws."

"The ERA would have disastrous consequences for the pro-life movement if it were to pass," she added. Quigley predicted that even if the measure did pass, litigation would quickly follow "because this is something that the court, most recently ... a federal district court judge said a few weeks ago that ... the efforts by Virginia, Illinois, (and) Nevada to ratify the ERA are beyond the deadline and ... as a matter of law, impossible." 

Quigley contended that the pro-life movement and opponents of the ERA have the compelling argument in any potential litigation, citing the facts that "enough states didn't ratify it within the deadline" and that "several states that have rescinded their ratification in hindsight." She slammed "pro-abortion extremists" for "trying to change the rules" in order to secure the enactment of the ERA. 

A coalition of pro-life activists, led by Kristan Hawkins of Students for Life of America Action, submitted a letter to House and Senate leaders of both parties urging them to oppose removing the ratification deadline. Hawkins suggested that the acronym ERA actually stands for the "Everything Related to Abortion Act."

The letter cited comments from the National Abortion Rights Action League asserting that "the ERA would reinforce the constitutional right to abortion by clarifying that the sexes have equal rights, which would require judges to strike down anti-abortion laws because they violate both the constitutional right to privacy and sexual equality" as evidence backing up that claim. Other signatories included Lila Rose, the founder and president of Live Action, and Abby Johnson, a former Planned Parenthood clinic director who has become an outspoken pro-life activist. 

The House had previously voted to remove the ratification deadline for the ERA in 2020, with all Democrats and five Republicans voting in favor. The effort did not materialize, as the Senate was in Republican hands at the time. 

With Democrats in control of the Senate, the upper chamber will likely vote to remove the ratification deadline. However, as Quigley mentioned, such an action "would most likely require the Senate to get rid of the filibuster," which requires 60 votes for most legislation to pass.

Two of the 50 Democrats in the Senate, accounting for one-half of the members, have vowed to oppose any effort to eliminate the filibuster. While Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has cosponsored a Senate resolution that would remove the ERA ratification deadline, the effort is unlikely to secure the support of 10 Republican senators. 

By the time of the ratification deadline, 35 of the 50 states had ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, three short of the three-fourths majority required for the amendment to take effect. Five states have since rescinded their ratifications.

In recent years, as Quigley mentioned, three additional states ratified the proposed constitutional amendment, meaning that 38 states have at one point or another voted in favor of the ERA. This has led the amendment's proponents to argue that they have secured enough support for the amendment's addition to the Constitution as the 28th Amendment. 

Many conservatives attribute the defeat of the ERA to the efforts of the late conservative activist Phyllis Schlafly, who died in 2016. As political commentator Ann Coulter noted in an obituary she wrote about Schlafly: "When Schlafly turned her attention to the E.R.A., no reasonable person would have supposed that the amendment could have been stopped. In 1971, the House passed it by 354 to 24. The next year, the Senate had passed it by a vote of 84 to 8."

"Thirty states had approved it in the first year after it was sent to the states for ratification. Only eight more states were needed, within the next seven years. There was little question that the E.R.A. was about to become our next constitutional amendment," she recalled. According to Coulter, one of Schafly's strongest arguments against the ERA was that it would "end the female exemption from the draft." 

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