Equal Rights Amendment
Once again, like a repeating pop-up target in a circus midway game, ratification of the federal ERA comes up before the Missouri General Assembly. The ratification effort, called the "three states strategy" by its supporters, is a deadly serious matter. This pop- up target comes armed to shoot at us' and not with toy bullets. Its ammunition is federal constitutional litigation, with injunctions and damage awards. Among its chief targets are abortion regulations, no matter how modest, and the traditional family structure of a man and woman together for life.
Missouri is a key state in the effort to revive the dormant federal ERA Thirty-five of the required thirty-eight states ratified the ERA in the 1970's. According to the proponents of the "three states strategy," ratification by another three states would mean the adoption of the amendment, notwithstanding the seven-year limit on ratification (later stretched into ten years) set by Congress. At the least, they say, ratification by three more states would set the stage for Congress to rescind its time limitation and declare the amendrnent to be adopted. Their statements and strategy are laid out in the web site, www.equalrightsamendment.org for all to read.
Missouri is well known as a pro-life state and a crossroads between all the regions of the country. It is a bellweather for elections. If Missouri ratified the ERA, the ERA would be given a boost which would recharge the ratification movement and may well bring another two states along.
The question of ratifying the federal ERA is not merely an exercise in election-year posturing on "equal rights," in which legislators' votes will have no legal effect. To the contrary, ratification presents a clear and present danger of handing to the federal courts broad powers to interfere with many of the most important parts of our lives at the behest of those who disdain ordinary family life, including such matters as:
Federal courts simply have no business issuing decrees and injunctions in these matters.
The social goals of the ERA arc not really about workplace issues. Federal courts stand ready to remedy sex-based discrimination and sexual harassment with civil damage awards, injunctions, and penalties on top of awards. Employers spend substantial sums these days on training and seminars on how to comply with anti-sex discrimination laws. Missouri state law is also strong in this area.
Rather, the social consequences of ERA are what counts. They include the following:
Is this really what we want? Should we give the federal courts the chance to follow the precedent set by the Hawaii, Connecticut and New Mexico state courts in interpreting their respective ERA's? The federal courts are not especially known for restraint in the interpretation of constitutional amendments, after all, and the "abortion distortion" in federal constitutional law, which is always exercised in favor of abortionists, is generally recognized by legal experts.
Few remember that when the U. S. House of Representatives passed the ERA on October 12, 1971, the senior female member was Leonor K. Sullivan of Missouri. She spoke strongly against the ERA because of the harm it would cause to the family in this country. Once the implications of the ERA are known, then voices of women now are like Ms. Sullivan's then---opposed to the social agenda which underlies the ERA.
It is reckless to vote in favor of putting the ERA into the federal constitution. If 38 states ratify, Congress may well declare the amendment effective. If Congress does not do so, the Supreme Court may. It is n unpredictable whether the courts would recognize or assume any jurisdiction in the matter. If Congress announced the effectiveness of the amendment upon ratification by three-fourths of the states, would the courts acquiesce; under the principle that ratification is a political question not justiciable by the courts? That principle guided the Supreme Court to reject a dispute about ratification of an amendment some sixty years ago. Coleman v. Miller, 307 U.S. 433 (1939). However, since that date, other supposedly non-justiciable "political" questions, notably the controversy in the 1960's over reapportioning state legislatures by the one-person-one-vote principle, have been ruled to be justiciable after all. No one knows for sure what will happen. Anything could happen.
If the ERA becomes a part of the Constitution, make no mistake about it: it will become the centerpiece of pro-abortionists' arguments against every type and kind of abortion regulation attempted by any legislative body. If the public can be forced to pay for abortions, then no regulation possibly affecting abortions is safe from attack, whether parental consent, informed consent, or keeping abortion facilities separate from family planning offices. Supreme Court Justice Ginsberg, in fact, wrote articles as a law professor expressing the wish to place abortion jurisprudence within the principles of equal protection of the laws. An ERA in the federal constitution would grant that wish and solidify abortion in the law as nothing else to date has done
If that happened, pro-ife legislation would be finished for decades. The pro-life movement would not be over, for we are under a "life" sentence, and the Giver of life has not seen fit to grant us a reprieve, but the movement would have to turn to a constitutional amendment in the short run, instead of focusing on normal legislation.
That such an outcome is certain, no one can say, but then risk is substantial, and as such, unthinkable. Twenty-seven years of pro-life work by the Missouri General Assembly, most recently against wily and determined opponents, should not be thrown away in a rush to embrace the mantra of "equal rights."
For these reasons, Missouri Right to Life is steadfastly and energetically opposed to ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, and we urge legislators in the strongest terms to vote against it should it come up for a vote in 2001.