A pro-abortion amendment to the U.S. Constitution cannot move forward, despite abortion activists’ attempts to revive it past the deadline, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) technically would ensure equality for women through the U.S. Constitution. However, pro-life leaders long have warned that it would be used to end all abortion restrictions and allow unborn babies to be aborted for any reason up to birth.
U.S. Congress set a seven-year deadline for the ratification of the amendment, but it ended in 1982. Some pro-abortion lawmakers have ignored the deadline and passed the amendment anyway, including the Nevada legislature in 2017 and Illinois in 2018.
Virginia is expected to become the 38th and final state needed to ratify the ERA to the Constitution after pro-abortion Democrats gained control of the state legislature this month.
However, many have raised questions about if the states’ votes count after the deadline and if other states that voted to ratify but later to rescind their ratification also should be considered.
On Monday, the Justice Department basically settled the question.
“We conclude that Congress had the constitutional authority to impose a deadline on the ratification of the ERA and, because that deadline has expired, the ERA Resolution is no longer pending before the States,” it stated.
The DOJ cited statute 1 U.S.C. § 106b, which says that Congress has the authority to set a deadline for ratifying a Constitutional amendment. According to the DOJ, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld Congress’s authority to impose the deadline as well.
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National Right to Life Senior Policy Advisor Douglas Johnson said the ERA is dead, and no state legislative actions can resurrect it.
“The Justice Department opinion makes it clear that the current Congress has no power to travel back in time and alter what Congress, by two-thirds votes, proposed to the states in 1972,” Johnson said.
Ed Martin, president of the conservative Phyllis Schlafly Eagles organization, also celebrated the news.
“The radical left has tried every trick in the book to subvert the will of the states but their trickery is no match for truth,” Martin said. “The matter is closed. America knows ERA is bad for our nation and our Constitution. They have soundly rejected it over and over again.”
Abortion activists may challenge the decision, but Johnson expressed hope that the DOJ decision will be upheld in court.
National Right to Life has warned for decades that the ERA would pose a constitutional threat to all limitations on abortion. And pro-abortion groups now openly admit that the ERA could decimate laws that protect unborn babies and mothers from abortion.
In 2019, the pro-abortion group NARAL said “the ERA would reinforce the constitutional right to abortion” and “require judges to strike down anti-abortion laws …”
Years ago, Johnson said National Right to Life fought for pro-life changes the ERA that would have protected unborn babies’ right to life, but Congress rejected them.
Should the ERA be adopted, it would invalidate the federal Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer funding of abortions in Medicaid, and all state restrictions prohibiting tax-funded abortions. Likewise, it would nullify any federal or state restrictions on partial-birth abortions or third-trimester abortions (since these are sought “only by women”).
Johnson said laws that allow government-supported medical facilities and personnel — including religiously affiliated hospitals — to refuse to participate in abortions likely would be in jeopardy as well.
To pass a new ERA, Congress would have to vote to start the process all over again. Amending the U.S. Constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote in the U.S. House and Senate and ratification by three-fourths of the state legislatures.
In December, Alabama, Louisiana and South Dakota sued to stop the final ratification of the ERA past the 1982 Congressional deadline.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said their states are “firmly committed to equality,” but the ERA should not be ratified.
“The people had seven years to consider the ERA, and they rejected it. To sneak it into the Constitution through this illegal process would undermine the very basis for our constitutional order,” Marshall said in a statement.
He said the ERA “would not promote true equality, but rather a far-left agenda,” including abortion on demand up to birth.