Like an episode of "The Walking Dead," the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is slogging its way through the halls of Congress again trying to devour the rule of law to force a radical change.
Key to this effort is redefining a number of words including "deadlines," "sex," and "women," because underneath all the drama is a hard-core push to make the ERA the "Everything Related to Abortion" Act.
On deadlines: Congress gave proponents of the ERA until 1979 to get 38 states’ approval to add it to the Constitution. And they failed, getting only 35 states to buy in. So, some in Congress rigged a 1982 extension.
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Again, it was a swing and a miss. But in a the-rules-don’t-apply-to-me kind of mindset, ERA activists ignored the facts, pushing its ratification far beyond its shelf life.
In a Senate Judiciary Hearing on the ERA this week, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, noted that deadlines are usually well understood in Congress, as members resubmit bills year after year, when they don’t get enough votes, and that 8 of the last 9 Constitutional Amendments had time limits, with no complaints until now.
Deadlines are not a figment of Congressional imagination; they are the purview of entire rule-setting committees. The clock ran out on ERA ratification, as the National Archives noted when refusing to publish the ERA as an addition to the U.S. Constitution.
This is not a "conservative" view. The abortion-supporting, late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, said the ERA – like old milk – had passed its expiration date, and it was time to throw out a stale and stalled ERA.
"I would like to see a new beginning. I’d like it to start over. There’s too much controversy about latecomers — Virginia, long after the deadline passed. Plus, a number of states have withdrawn their ratification. So, if you count a latecomer on the plus side, how can you disregard states that said, ‘We’ve changed our minds’?" Ginsburg said at Georgetown Law School event in 2020.
In fact, five states withdrew their approval, to the shrill disapproval of abortion advocates who want the deadlines waived for latecomers, but the change of heart by those who reconsidered ignored.
But it’s an inconvenient truth that changing the rules can’t really be a one-way street.
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On sex & women: Also awkward is the fact that the ERA – an idea more than 100 years old – suffers from a definition problem. ERA co-author Alice Paul once wrote about her advocacy, "The Woman's Party is made up of women of all races, creeds and nationalities who are united on the one program of working to raise the status of women."
But what is a woman? And what is sex? Important questions as the ERA defines rights by sex.
A century ago, clear distinctions existed noting male and female. Today biological women can be erased as sex becomes a fill-in-the-blank concept of self-definition, proposed already in the Biden administration’s regulation changes at the Department of Education and Health and Human Services. It’s not at all clear what "rights" would be protected.
During the hearing, Judiciary Chairman Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., mansplained to mother and Harvard-educated attorney, Jennifer C. Braceras, Director of the Independent Women’s Law Center, that her concerns for her daughter’s access to sports were irrelevant as though access to field hockey was the only issue at stake or the only issue she raised. There is more to it.
Abortion advocates for years were honest that creating a real Constitutional hook for abortion was key.
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Famed feminist Betty Friedan wrote in a 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 at the ERA hearing this week, such facts were ignored until Sen. Alex Padilla, D-Calif., cut through all the smoke and mirrors, to mention the Dobbs v. Jackson decision, which found that abortion is not written into the Constitution.
"In my view, last summer’s Dobbs’ opinion was significant," said Sen. Padilla. "What is at stake here, rights once recognized by the Supreme Court …may no longer be safe unless they are enshrined in the Constitution."
And there it was: the true goal of ending the lives of the preborn for any reason at all as an enshrined and deified Constitutional "right," an ugly agenda for a beautiful document.
At Students for Life of America, we’re going to be making the case that protection for the preborn is already found in the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, but abortion isn’t. After finally taking out the abortion trash to the ash heap of history, Pro-Life Americans stand ready to oppose new efforts to manipulate the Constitution to suit Planned Parenthood.