Communications Department

U.S. House of Representatives attempts time-travel rescue of long-dead 1972 Equal Rights Amendment

Feb 13, 2020 | 2020 Press Releases, Equal Rights Amendment, Press Releases, Press Room

But resuscitation campaign likely to encounter cool receptions in the U.S. Senate and the federal courts

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives today passed a measure that purports to reanimate the Equal Rights Amendment approved by the 92nd Congress in 1972.

“The House Democratic leadership put on a partisan political stage-magic show – the 40-years-dead ERA was just a prop,” said Douglas D. Johnson, senior policy advisor for National Right to Life. “Efforts to resuscitate the 1972 ERA are likely to encounter insurmountable obstacles in the federal courts – and also, given the now widely admitted connection to abortion, in the U.S. Senate.”

The House passed H.J. Res. 79 on a roll call tally of 232-183, with only five Republicans (all male) joining all voting Democrats in support. The measure purports to “remove” by majority vote the deadline that was contained in the Proposing Clause of the ERA Resolution (92nd Congress H.J. Res. 208), which was approved by Congress in 1972 by the constitutionally required two-thirds margin.

Today’s House tally demonstrated a continuing sharp drop in support for the ERA language in the House of Representatives. In 1971 the ERA passed the House 354-24, or 94% support. When the ERA was brought to the floor in a “start over” attempt on November 15, 1983, it failed on a vote of 278-147, or 65% support (failing to pass for lack of the required two-thirds margin). Today’s vote was 232-183, or just 56%. Today’s tally was 45 votes short of the two-thirds margin that Article V of the Constitution requires for constitutional amendment proposals, although the Democratic House leadership today ignored that requirement.

On February 10, in remarks at Georgetown University Law Center, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg indicated that she believes the proper approach for ERA supporters, such as herself, is “a new beginning. I’d like it to start over.” Virginia’s recent adoption of an ERA resolution was, she said, “long after the deadline passed.” If such “a latecomer” were to be recognized, she suggested, “how can you disregard states that said, ‘We’ve changed our minds’?” (Five states rescinded their ERA ratifications before the deadline — which was in 1979, not 1982.)

As CNN reported (Feb. 10), “Her comments on the Equal Rights Amendment bolster arguments made last month by the Department of Justice in a legal opinion…[that said] ‘the ERA Resolution is no longer pending before the States.’” At a Jan. 30 press conference, Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring (D) had been dismissive of the legal analysis advanced by the Justice Department, saying, “The Trump Administration has concocted a scheme to try to nullify the will of millions of Americans…that the ERA should be added to the Constitution.”

Herring filed one of three federal lawsuits that are already underway (two pro-ERA, one anti-ERA), confronting the courts with questions about the ratification deadline and the validity of rescissions. The lead attorney in the second pro-ERA case has charged that the congressional effort “undermines our litigation efforts.” Moreover, leaked documents reveal that several major liberal groups recently privately expressed alarm to key congressional Democrats, warning that pro-ERA claims that 38 states have ratified the ERA effectively undercuts an ongoing liberal campaign to fend off a constitutional convention – a campaign that involves lobbying state legislatures to rescind earlier resolutions calling for such a convention.

During today’s House debate, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Ca.) made the remarkable statement, “This [ERA] has nothing to do with the abortion issue.” NRLC’s Johnson commented, “Pelosi says the ERA has nothing to do with abortion, but her friends at Planned Parenthood, NARAL, NOW, and the National Women’s Law Center have been shouting from the rooftops that it has a great deal to do with abortion.”  As the Associated Press (David Crary) accurately reported on Jan. 21, “… Abortion-rights supporters are eager to nullify the [ERA ratification] deadline and get the amendment ratified so it could be used to overturn state laws restricting abortion.”  

NRL’s Douglas Johnson is available for interviews by telephone or email, to discuss both the congressional and ratification history of the ERA, and the legal and political aspects of the current showdown. Mr. Johnson also directs an ERA-focused Twitter account that contains frequent updates and fact-checks on ERA-related legislative, legal, and political developments:  @ERANoShortcuts

Founded in 1968, National Right to Life, the federation of 50 state right-to-life affiliates and more than 3,000 local chapters, is the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots pro-life organization. Recognized as the flagship of the pro-life movement, NRLC works through legislation and education to protect innocent human life from abortion, infanticide, assisted suicide and euthanasia.