February 7, 2019
NRLC tells Congress it “strongly opposed to adding the 1972 ERA language to the U.S. Constitution”
Editor’s note. The following correspondence was sent February 6, 2019.
Dear Member of Congress:
In March, 1972, Congress approved a joint resolution, H.J. Res. 208, which proposed that the so-called “Equal Rights Amendment” be added to the U.S. Constitution if three-quarters of the state legislatures ratified it within seven years – i.e., by March 22, 1979. Because only 35 states ratified by that deadline, the amendment died. In 1983, the leadership of the House of Representatives – then Democratic – attempted to again send identical language to the states – but the start-over resolution was defeated on the floor of the House (November 15, 1983).
Now, Congresswoman Speier has introduced a joint resolution (H.J. Res. 38) that purports to remove the deadline that was contained in 1972 H.J. Res. 208, based on the odd notion that passing such a resolution could somehow revive the long-expired ERA. Moreover, she proposes that this may be accomplished by simple majority votes in Congress, not the two-thirds votes that were required for approval of H.J. Res. 208 in 1972.
National Right to Life is strongly opposed to adding the 1972 ERA language to the U.S. Constitution, because it would provide a powerful legal weapon with which to challenge virtually any limits on abortion, and to require unlimited government funding of abortion. Therefore, we intend to include any House roll call on H.J. Res. 38 in our scorecard of key pro-life votes of the 116th Congress.
Moreover, H.J. Res. 38 is insupportable on constitutional grounds. While Congress is under no obligation to include a deadline when it proposes a constitutional amendment to the states, Congress did so in 1972, and then approved the package by the required two-thirds votes. Of the 35 states that ratified the ERA before the 1979 deadline, 24 explicitly referred to the deadline in their instruments of ratification.
Both in Congress and in some of the early ratifying states, far too little consideration was given to some of the likely substantive legal effects of the 1972 ERA language, which have become better understood in the intervening years. State ERAs adopted by a number of states, containing language virtually identical to the proposed federal ERA, have been employed by pro-abortion advocacy groups in a manner that jeopardizes virtually all pro-life laws and policies.
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