by Steven Ertelt
February 7, 2007
Little Rock, AR (LifeNews.com) — In a surprising vote, an Arkansas state legislative committee defeated a resolution to make the state the next to approve the federal Equal Rights Amendment (ERA). Pro-life groups launched an effort to defeat the bill because the amendment has been used to promote abortion and taxpayer funding of it.
A state House panel voted down a ratification resolution (HJR 1002) after 20 co-sponsors abandoned it following the concerted pro-life lobbying effort.
National Right to Life and its state affiliate, Arkansas Right to Life, opposed the ERA bill.
They said the sweeping language of the 1972 ERA would be used as a legal weapon against virtually all laws that regulate abortion. It has been used for that purpose other states, including Connecticut and New Mexico, where it a court cited it as requiring the state to pay for abortions.
"Many ERA supporters were not candid with the legislators, and that came back to bite them," Douglas Johnson, the legislative director of National Right to Life, said in a statement given to LifeNews.com.
"Some lawmakers changed their minds, once they learned how ERAs have been used to require tax funding of abortion," he added.
"Some legislators also learned for the first time that the 1972 ERA contained a seven-year deadline and cannot be revived by any number of states," Johnson explained. "In fact, 26 of the 35 states that ratified during the 1970s explicitly mentioned the seven-year deadline in their ratification resolutions, and in 1982 the U.S. Supreme Court declared the ERA dead."
Supporters of the resolution had been running a campaign "under the radar" in which they were trying to get additional states to approve it.
"The hopes of ERA supporters all over the country are now high that the Arkansas legislature will ratify the ERA within the next few weeks," advocates wrote in a pro-ERA newsletter last month.
In Arkansas, Gov. Mike Bebee, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, and Attorney General Dustin McDaniel spoke to a pro-ERA rally at the state capitol and more than 66 co-sponsors signed up to support the bill until pro-life advocates told them of the problems.
Ultimately, the State Agencies & Governmental Affairs Committee defeated HJR 1002 on a 10-10 vote, with two cosponsors voting against it.
Ratification resolutions have been introduced this year in a number of other states that never ratified the 1972 ERA, including Arizona, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, and Mississippi.
The deadline for ratification of the 1972 ERA expired many years ago, and that the U.S. Supreme Court flatly declared it dead in 1982.
Nevertheless, if three states adopt resolutions such as HJR 1002, Congress would be forced to vote on whether to declare the 1972 ERA as ratified.