Communications Department
202.626.8825
mediarelations@nrlc.org

New ERA introduced in Congress; NRLC urges opposition

Mar 30, 2007 | Equal Rights Amendment

WASHINGTON (March 30, 2007) — The controversial federal “Equal Rights Amendment” (ERA) was re-introduced in both houses of Congress on March 27.

According to the Washington Post (March 28), “House and Senate Democrats . . . vowed to bring it to a vote in both chambers by the end of the session.”  If so, it would be the first time since 1983 that either house of Congress has voted on the ERA.

The proposal was introduced in the House as H. J. Res. 40 by Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), with 192 cosponsors, and in the Senate as S. J. Res. 10 by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Ma.), with 20 cosponsors.

Some supporters of the new resolutions now refer to the measure as the “Women’s Equality Amendment,” but the resolutions would place within the federal Constitution exactly the same language as the original ERA that Congress proposed to the state legislatures in 1972, which was never ratified by the required number of state legislatures. However, Congress attached a seven-year deadline for ratification to the 1972 proposal.  The new resolutions contain no deadline for ratification.

Many pro-ERA groups claim that the 1972 resolution is still alive and could become part of the Constitution if ratified by three more states.  In 13 years of promoting this theory, however, the pro-ERA groups have failed to convince a single state legislature to go along with it.  The most recent rejection, which occurred in Arkansas in February, was reported in the March 2007 issue of NRL News.  (“NRLC, Pro-Life Forces in Arkansas Deal Setback to Campaign to Revive 1972 Pro-Abortion ERA.”)

NRLC is strongly opposed to the federal ERA unless it is amended to explicitly prevent the provision from being used to attack pro-life laws.  The required “abortion-neutral amendment” reads, “Nothing in this Article [the ERA] shall be construed to grant, secure, or deny any right relating to abortion or the funding thereof.”

In some states that have added ERAs to their state constitutions, courts have interpreted the ERAs to invalidate laws targeting abortion.  For example, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled 5-0 that the state’s ERA invalidated a state ban on funding abortions through the state Medicaid program.

In a March 28 letter to U.S. House members, NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson and Congressional Liaison Susan Muskett wrote, “If H.J. Res. 40 is brought to the House floor, NRLC will urge adoption of the remedial abortion-neutral amendment.  If the amendment is not adopted, NRLC will oppose passage of H.J. Res. 40, and will include the roll call on passage in its scorecard of key pro-life roll calls of the 110th Congress.”

On March 29, NRLC sent a similar letter to senators regarding S. J. Res. 10.

The NRLC letters to Congress, lists of cosponsors of H.J. Res. 40 and S. J. Res. 10, and many documents on the ERA-abortion connection are available in the NRLC website section on the “Equal Rights Amendment” at http://nrlc.org///federal/era