COUNTERPOINT: Is the Equal Rights Amendment needed?
No, and if it is ratified the ERA would hurt women and harm country
By ANNE SCHLAFLY CORI
Are men and women interchangeable in all situations? Are there any differences between men and women or should the United States become a completely sex-neutral society?
The Equal Rights Amendment is a relic from a hundred years ago, but the Illinois legislature just made it a current topic by voting to pass that old amendment. Not enough states have passed ERA to put it in the U.S. Constitution and it should be stopped. ERA is not needed and if it were to be ratified, ERA would harm women and harm our country.
The simple language of ERA does not allow for any exceptions, even common-sense exceptions that recognize that only women get pregnant and have babies or the difference between a Y and X chromosome. ERA demands complete sex equality and, in section two, instructs the federal government to enforce that equality.
Our military readiness would be compromised by forcing equal representation of women in all military roles, including combat and selective service. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has said the ERA would require that all women would be subject to the military draft and must be placed in front-line combat in equal ratios to men. Although we have a voluntary army, once in the military, no soldier is voluntary but must serve where ordered – including combat.
Since pregnancy only happens to one and not both sexes, ERA would force taxpayer-paid abortions, eliminate the Hyde Amendment that prevents federal funding of abortion, and secure abortion as a Constitutional right. Any restrictions on abortion, such as parental notification or laws against partial-birth abortions, would be unconstitutional sex discrimination. ERA does not allow for any exceptions for privacy and would force the sex-integration of prisons, athletic competitions, schools, and showers. Nobody benefits if male and female prisons are combined; in fact, female prisoners would be at a significant privacy and security disadvantage. Currently, most women’s shelters and transitional housing that help abused women do not allow men inside for the protection and security of women — but those shelters would be illegal under ERA.
Benefits that women receive would be eliminated, such as Social Security benefits for homemakers, WIC nutrition program, financial incentives for women-owned businesses, financial aid for education that are only granted to women, and any workplace accommodations for pregnant women or breast-feeding mothers.
All liberty-loving Americans should oppose ERA, because ERA has a second section: Congress shall have the power to enforce the provisions of this article. Unlike other amendments to the Constitution, which limit the power and scope of the federal government, ERA instructs the federal government to take more power: “Congress shall.” ERA would overturn countless state laws and demand that the federal government enforce complete sex neutrality in all aspects, including family law, criminal law, education and insurance rates. States would lose much of their power and authority and our federal system of government would become meaningless under ERA.
Constitutional amendments have a much greater force than other laws and the ill-defined language of ERA could be interpreted in a number of ways. For example, ERA would give the power to the federal government to enforce sex neutrality in family courts, education, athletics, prisons, set-asides, services for the disadvantaged — or any area where a state has chosen to make a distinction on the basis of sex. State and local governments should make these decisions, not Congress or the federal bureaucracy.
ERA should not be shoehorned in the Constitution at this time since the Supreme Court ruled in 1982 that ERA had failed ratification in NOW v. Idaho. All Americans should respect the amending process and recognize that ERA failed to garner the contemporaneous consensus that would truly reflect the wishes of a supermajority of Americans. The proponents should instead try to sell all Americans on their amendment, not just those legislators in three states. The other 47 states that have not voted on ERA in nearly fifty years should not be forced to accept a brand-new Constitutional amendment without having a contemporary vote. Twenty-four states tied their approval of ERA in the 1970s to the original time limit of seven years for the ratification process.
ERA is not needed for women to succeed. Under the 14th Amendment, all “persons” – which includes women and men – are granted equal protection under the law. Is there any opportunity that American women are missing? What injustice would ERA remedy in our lives? Instead, ERA would prove to be a boon for activist judges and bureaucrats.
ERA is not a “feel-good” symbolic law. ERA would not give any woman a pay raise or prevent any act of sexual harassment. ERA does not put “women” in the Constitution; it puts “sex” in the Constitution. “Sex” is both a noun and a verb with a lot of different definitions. We should not allow such a vague and poorly-written amendment into our great Constitution.
Anne Schlafly Cori is chairman of Eagle Forum, a conservative interest group in the United States founded by her late mother, Phyllis Schlafly, in Alton, in 1972.