Guest Commentary

The Equal Rights Amendment is an outdated relic. Women don’t need it

Anne Schlafly Cori
Anne Schlafly Cori

Do the American people need or want to add the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution today? The ERA failed 40 years ago for good reasons. The more we learn about it, the more people oppose it.

The ERA would harm women. Do not fall for an emotional chant of “equal rights” by its proponents, because the amendment would overturn many good laws.

The ERA would not put “women” in the Constitution; it would put “sex” in the Constitution — and it does not define the meaning of “sex,” which would often be termed “gender” today. The ERA would not allow for any exceptions, including commonsense distinctions recognizing that only women get pregnant, for instance. It would compel a completely sex- and gender-neutral society and transfer enormous power to Congress to enforce “equality.”

Here is what the broad and poorly-worded language of the ERA would actually do:

▪ Overturn laws and policies that support women because they make distinctions based on gender. Examples include the exemption of women from the military draft and front-line combat, laws that benefit women in child support and alimony, and federal programs and set-asides that support mothers, such as the Women, Infants and Children nutrition program.

▪ Overturn laws and practices that provide privacy and protection in bathrooms, locker rooms, hospitals, nursing homes, domestic abuse shelters and correctional facilities.

▪ Guarantee greatly expanded constitutional rights for an array of abortion procedures. This could in time lead to a loosening of all abortion restrictions, including those on partial-birth and third-trimester abortions, as well as parental notification of minors seeking abortions. It could also lead to overturning the Hyde Amendment, which restricts federal funding for abortions.

▪ Threaten religious freedom by restricting a church’s right to ordain only men, or by imposing rules on their doctrine or practices on marriage. The ERA would threaten the tax exemptions of religious schools that follow pro-life tenets.

Section II of the ERA would transfer to Congress enormous new powers at the expense of the states, stating, “Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.” It would take away from the state legislatures any jurisdiction on laws that deal with sex, including family law.

Many of the gains women have realized would be prohibited by the ERA. Women have benefited from the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act of 1978, the Violence Against Women Act and the Affordable Care Act provision that gives breastfeeding women the right to nurse or pump at work.

Laws already exist for women’s opportunities and participation in the workforce. Examples include the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Employment Opportunity Act of 1972, Title IX of the Education Amendments Act of 1972 and the 14th Amendment (which provides for “equal protection of the laws” for all people). The ERA would threaten single-gender schools and women’s athletics.

The attempt to resurrect the Equal Rights Amendment is not about women’s rights. Its supporters want full abortion rights enshrined in the Constitution and to eliminate any and all distinctions based on sex and gender.

Ratification of the ERA failed in 1979. Supporters now argue that the time limit placed on the amendment is irrelevant, and its recent passage in Nevada and Illinois is an attempt to shoehorn it into our Constitution. Any new amendment to the U.S. Constitution should have a robust debate and the support of a supermajority of Americans — or as the Supreme Court put it, a “contemporaneous consensus.” Votes taken 40 years ago do not reflect the will of the people today.

American society today is very different from the 1970s, including our understanding of the definition of the term “sex.” The Equal Rights Amendment should stay in the dustbin of history.

Anne Schlafly Cori is the chairman of Eagle Forum and the daughter of Phyllis Schlafly. She lives in St. Louis.