Pro-lif­ers see re­vival of ERA as ‘smoke­screen for abor­tion’

The Washington Times Daily - - FRONT PAGE - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

Forty years ago, Phyl­lis Sch­lafly led the suc­cess­ful drive to de­rail the Equal Rights Amend­ment, but this time, the most for­mi­da­ble op­po­si­tion is com­ing from the pro-life move­ment.

With the re­vived ERA un­der con­sid­er­a­tion in the Vir­ginia Gen­eral As­sem­bly, pro-life ad­vo­cates have sought to put the brakes on the amend­ment’s ad­vance, ar­gu­ing that the mea­sure rep­re­sents a stealth cam­paign to en­shrine abor­tion rights in the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion.

“The ERA is not about women. It is re­ally a smoke­screen for abor­tion,” Pa­t­rina Mosley, di­rec­tor of life, cul­ture and women’s ad­vo­cacy for the Fam­ily Re­search Coun­cil, said at a Thurs­day press con­fer­ence in Rich­mond.

A coali­tion of con­ser­va­tive and pro­life groups urged Vir­ginia leg­is­la­tors to re­ject rat­i­fi­ca­tion. They called it a “Tro­jan horse” aimed at pro­vid­ing a con­sti­tu­tional foothold for abor­tion while pro-choice

ac­tivists fear for the fu­ture of the 1973 Roe v. Wade rul­ing as the Supreme Court tilts to the right.

“They’re afraid that Roe is go­ing to be over­turned, that more states are go­ing to pass leg­is­la­tion to pro­tect the pre-born and sup­port women to choose life,” said Tina Whit­ting­ton, ex­ec­u­tive vice pres­i­dent of Stu­dents for Life of Amer­ica. “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.”

Their lob­by­ing ef­fort failed to stop the amend­ment from clear­ing its first leg­isla­tive hur­dle Wed­nes­day as the Vir­ginia Se­nate Priv­i­leges and Elec­tions Com­mit­tee voted 8-6 to move the res­o­lu­tion to the floor.

“I think the ur­gency and the his­tor­i­cal im­por­tance of be­ing the state to put us across the top re­ally sort of changes the po­lit­i­cal and emo­tional dy­namic of the is­sue,” Sen. Scott Surov­ell, North­ern Vir­ginia Demo­crat, told the Daily Press. “I think it also val­i­dates the fact that we have to get this done, and it makes it real.”

Sup­port­ers are count­ing on Vir­ginia to push the ERA over the thresh­old as the 38th state to rat­ify the con­sti­tu­tional amend­ment, although sig­nif­i­cant ques­tions re­main over whether the process is still le­gal, given that the ERA’s last con­gres­sional dead­line ex­pired in 1982.

The newly re­con­sti­tuted cam­paign, led by the ERA Coali­tion, in­cludes young celebrity faces such as Alyssa Mi­lano as well as some fa­mil­iar names from the orig­i­nal ef­fort that be­gan in 1972, in­clud­ing fem­i­nist leader Glo­ria Steinem and ac­tress Jane Fonda.

Del­e­gate Jen­nifer Car­roll Foy, Prince Wil­liam Demo­crat, said the ERA’s pas­sage is crit­i­cal to en­sur­ing equal­ity for women, given that laws on is­sues such as equal pay, vi­o­lence against women and preg­nancy rights are sub­ject to be­ing re­vis­ited, re­pealed or over­turned.

“When my rights as a woman [are] de­pen­dent on laws, be­cause laws can change as quickly as leg­is­la­tors change their minds, and Supreme Court de­ci­sions that al­lowed me to go to col­lege can al­ways be re­versed, but when you en­shrine my con­sti­tu­tional rights as a hu­man be­ing equal to men, well, that is the only thing that is ac­cept­able, be­cause amend­ments do not ex­pire,” she said in a Wed­nes­day floor speech.

ERA Coali­tion co-Pres­i­dent Jes­sica Neuwirth in­sisted that the amend­ment is silent on abor­tion. The rel­e­vant sec­tion reads, “Equal­ity of rights un­der the law shall not be de­nied or abridged by the United States or by any state on ac­count of sex.”

She said 23 states have equal rights amend­ments, with “none re­sult­ing in this out­come.”

“Abor­tion is a con­sti­tu­tional right of pri­vacy un­der Roe v. Wade,” Ms. Neuwirth said in an email. “Many pro-life ad­vo­cates have fer­vently sup­ported the ERA, in­clud­ing Rep. Cynthia Lum­mis, who un­til her re­cent re­tire­ment was the lead Repub­li­can cospon­sor with [Rep.] Carolyn Maloney.”

Pro-life ad­vo­cates have ar­gued that courts in Con­necti­cut and New Mex­ico cited the state ERAs in rul­ings ex­pand­ing ac­cess to abor­tion fund­ing.

Mal­lory Quigley, a spokes­woman for the pro-life Su­san B. An­thony List, said the ERA “would al­ter the Con­sti­tu­tion to cre­ate a per­ma­nent right to abor­tion on de­mand, up un­til the mo­ment of birth, paid for by you and I, the Amer­i­can tax­pay­ers.”

“It’s even more ex­treme than Roe v. Wade, which in a sin­gle day struck down every pro-life law na­tion­wide,” Ms. Quigley said.

Although the dead­line for rat­i­fi­ca­tion by three­fourths of the states ex­pired in 1977 — and ex­pired again in 1982 after gain­ing a five-year ex­ten­sion — House and Se­nate Democrats have in­tro­duced res­o­lu­tions to elim­i­nate the dead­line.

That res­o­lu­tion, if ap­proved, would al­low the ERA to be en­shrined in the U.S. Con­sti­tu­tion after it is rat­i­fied by 38 states.

Other ques­tions re­main. Two of the 37 states — Ne­vada and Illi­nois — rat­i­fied the ERA in the past two years, and five of the states that ap­proved the ERA decades ago have since with­drawn their rat­i­fi­ca­tion.

Op­po­nents ar­gue that the amend­ment could wind up harm­ing women by ren­der­ing in­valid laws that of­fer ad­di­tional pro­tec­tions, such as equal-pay mea­sures, depend­ing on how the courts in­ter­pret the mea­sure.

“The ERA is out of sync with this cen­tury where women are al­ready pro­tected as equals in our leg­is­la­tion and the courts,” said Ms. Whit­ting­ton.

Sch­lafly died in 2016, but her legacy lives on. Her daugh­ter Anne Sch­lafly Cori, who now chairs the Ea­gle Fo­rum, was on hand Thurs­day to lend her sup­port to the 21st-cen­tury cam­paign to de­feat the ERA.

“The idea that a cou­ple of states can tag onto votes that were taken 50 years ago is a fraud and a cheat on our con­sti­tu­tional sys­tem,” said Ms. Cori. “Mil­lions of women were in­spired by my mother in the 1970s to get up get out and de­feat ERA. We’re at it again to­day.”

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

RE­NEWED FIGHT: Equal Rights Amend­ment sup­port­ers gath­ered at the Vir­ginia state­house in Rich­mond to send a mes­sage to law­mak­ers on the first day of the Gen­eral As­sem­bly ses­sion.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Del­e­gate Jen­nifer Car­roll Foy, Prince Wil­liam Demo­crat, cheered on demon­stra­tors Wed­nes­day and said pas­sage of the Equal Rights Amend­ment is crit­i­cal to en­sur­ing equal­ity for women.

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