Equal Rights Amendment
Since the Equal Rights Amendment is couched in loose and sweeping language, its interpretation1 and its eventual interpretation in the courts (if adopted) have occasioned the nationwide controversy that has surrounded it for the past twenty years.
RLM is concerned with two central considerations:
- Only a woman can become pregnant, never a man. Therefore any legislation restricting abortion or its funding could be challenged, using the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) as a cornerstone of the legal proceedings.
- When an amendment is added to the Constitution and is later tested in court cases, those courts must be guided by the intent of the amendment’s framers and its legislative history.2
The intent of the ERA’s supporters can be demonstrated by litigation under the state Equal Rights Amendment in various state constitutions. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), prominent in pro-abortion and pro-ERA causes, argued during cases in Hawaii, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania that since abortion is a medical procedure performed only for women, withdrawing funding for abortions while paying for other medical procedures sought by both sexes would be tantamount to a denial of equal rights on account of sex. “…such pleadings are the bellwethers of social change and a sure guide to what ERA means for its most powerful advocates.”3
The Honorable Clare Boothe Luce, an ardent feminist for half a century and an original advocate of the ERA, in a letter to the Women’s Lobby, berated those “misguided feminists who tried to make the extraneous issue of unrestricted and federally financed abortions the centerpiece of the equal rights struggle.”4
Those “misguided feminists” are, in fact, the leading supporters of the ERA as we see it today. They and their skilled lawyers, especially those of the ACLU, have failed to disguise the distinctly emerging truth that “unrestricted and federally financed abortions” are an integral part of the pro-ERA philosophy.
RLM is overwhelmingly represented by women who accept the thesis of “equal pay for equal work” and “equality before the law.” But we have seen an evolutionary process at work in these past years and are alarmed at its portents.
Therefore, RLM continues to be opposed to the ERA and any provision that could be construed to grant or secure any right to abortion or the funding thereof.
1 Senator Paul Tsongas (D. Mass.), testifying on behalf of the proposed ERA to the U.S. Senate (5/26/83), was unable to answer questions of Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch as to legislative intent and changes in federal law following passage of the ERA, saying again and again over ninety minutes of questioning, that “the courts would decide.” (Washington Times 5/27/83).
2 “Intent of Amendment’s Framers” was spelled out by Betty Freidan, an important leader of the ERA movement, when she wrote in NOW-ERA fundraising letter, “…I am convinced that if we lose this (ERA) struggle, we will have little hope in our own lifetime of saving our rights to abortion.” Sarah Weddington, ERA proponent and lawyer who successfully argued Roe vs. Wade before the U.S. Supreme Court, told a U.S. Senate Subcommittee (4/11/75) that the proposed Human Life Amendment then under discussion would deny the ERA principle that women have a right to “all choices.”
3 Lincoln Oliphant, “ERA and the Abortion Connection,” Human Life Review, Spring 1981.
4 The Honorable Clare Boothe Luce in a letter to the Women’s Lobby, Feb. 21, 1978.