U.S. House Democrats jammed through a resolution Thursday to revive a constitutional amendment that could end all abortion restrictions and allow unborn babies to be aborted for any reason up to birth.
The Democrat-controlled House passed House Joint Resolution 79 in a 232-183 vote in an attempt to nullify the seven-year deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) that expired in 1979. Five Republicans joined Democrats in supporting the resolution.
The bill now heads to the Senate, which will not likely take it up for consideration.
The constitutional amendment appears to be simple. It states that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” But both pro-abortion and pro-life leaders say the language could be used to end all abortion restrictions, even common-sense laws such as parental consent for minors and the partial-birth abortion ban. It also could force taxpayers to pay for abortions, something most Americans oppose.
The ERA is “anything but pro-woman,” said U.S. Rep. Vicky Hartzler, R-Missouri, who voted against the resolution.
“… the ERA would not bring women any more rights than they currently have but it would entrench the legality of abortion. We know this from court precedent and by listening to those who have the most to gain from constitutionally protecting abortion on demand,” she said, pointing to statements by several prominent pro-abortion groups.
The House resolution attempts to revive the ERA by allowing the recognition of recent state legislatures’ votes to ratify it. Virginia became the 38th and final state needed to ratify the amendment in January; Nevada and Illinois also voted to ratify the ERA decades after the 1979 deadline.
“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.”
“Abortion activists have made clear their intent to persuade activist judges to strike down pro-life laws and enshrine abortion-on-demand in the Constitution of the United States,” adds Susan B. Anthony List President Marjorie Dannenfelser. “To install a ‘Right to Abortion’ in the U.S. Constitution would be to deny the most basic right upon which our nation was founded: the right to life.”
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Dannenfelser expressed optimism that their efforts will not succeed, especially after U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who supports abortion and the ERA, recently admitted that the amendment is dead and advocates need to “start over.”
During an event at the Georgetown University Law Center, Ginsburg pointed out several problems with ratifying the amendment now, including the three states that voted past the deadline and five additional states that voted to rescind their ratification within the deadline.
In January, the Department of Justice issued an opinion saying the ERA cannot be added to the U.S. Constitution because of the long-past deadline. National Archivist David Ferriero, whose agency is in charge of adding amendments to the Constitution, said he will follow the DOJ decision.
Abortion advocacy groups have been lobbying for the amendment for decades. On its website, the pro-abortion group NARAL said the ERA would “reinforce the constitutional right to abortion by clarifying that the sexes have equal rights, which would require judges to strike down anti-abortion laws because they violate both the constitutional rights to privacy and sexual equality.”
National Right to Life senior policy advisor Douglas Johnson said the ERA, if added to the Constitution, could be used to dismantle laws that protect unborn babies and mothers from abortion.
“Numerous abortion-rights groups now openly proclaim that they would employ the ERA as a powerful legal weapon against pro-life laws,” Johnson said. These include NARAL, Planned Parenthood, the National Women’s Law Center, the Women’s Law Project and the National Organization for Women, he said.
Should the ERA be adopted, it could invalidate the federal Hyde Amendment, which prohibits taxpayer funding of abortions in Medicaid, and all state restrictions prohibiting tax-funded abortions. Likewise, it could 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.
Tom McClusky, president of March for Life Action, said pro-abortion Democrats are being aggressive in their attempts to enshrine abortion on demand into American law.
“Efforts in the House include resurrecting the misnamed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and holding a hearing on Rep. Judy Chu’s (D-CA) bill that would codify Roe, effectively making abortion on demand through all nine months of pregnancy federal law,” McClusky said. “In states that have adopted an ERA, it has been used to force taxpayer funding for abortion. And one need look no further than the vigorous support that radical abortion groups like NARAL and Planned Parenthood have put behind the ERA to know it would have disastrous consequences for pro-life laws. Rep. Chu’s bill to codify Roe would go even further than the ERA, not only doing away with any existing laws that limit abortion but also preventing pro-life legislators from introducing new ones.”