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Supreme Court of the United States

3 Reasons the Equal Rights Amendment Should Stay in the Past

By Sarah Kramer posted on:
July 28, 2020

In January, the Virginia legislature claimed to ratify a proposed amendment to the U.S. Constitution that states “[e]quality of rights under the law shall not be abridged…on account of sex.” 

If this news of a constitutional amendment surprises you, it’s because Congress sent this amendment, the “Equal Rights Amendment” (ERA), to the states in 1972… nearly 50 years ago. And the deadline for its ratification expired in 1979.

But now activists are trying to resurrect the ERA and have sued to demand it be added to the Constitution. Here are three reasons that’s a bad idea. 


1. The ERA will actually threaten equal rights for women.

Even without the ERA, women have made great strides since 1972. I’m nearing 30 years old, and I have never known a time where women didn’t enjoy equality and fairness under the law. The fact is that the ERA is simply not needed.

On top of that, if we were to pass the ERA now, it would actually undercut many of the hard-fought protections that ensure women are treated fairly in America. Why? Because activists are looking to reinterpret “sex.” These activists argue that the language used in the ERA should open the door for men who identify as women to compete in—and dominate—women’s sports, and for biological males to enter shelters designed to protect women who have suffered abuse, rape, and trafficking at the hands of men. This misuse of the ERA would jeopardize the many gains that women have made in employment, education, and sports.  


2. Activists will push to use the ERA to further entrench a radical abortion regime.

The abortion industry has long argued that state-level ERAs guarantee a right to taxpayer-funded abortions. And some state courts, New Mexico and Connecticut among them, have upheld that argument. That means if the ERA were added to the U.S. Constitution, it could be used to force Americans to pay for abortions with their own tax dollars—including abortions up to the moment of birth. 

I don’t want my taxes going to fund abortions, do you? The fact is that most Americans don’t. But the ERA would likely cement a federal right to expanded, taxpayer-funded abortions—going right into the pockets of Big Abortion.


3. Ratifying the ERA now, long after the deadline, would defy our constitutional process. 

Article V of the U.S. Constitution lays out the process for ratifying an amendment. According to that process, 38 states must ratify an amendment, and they must do so within a certain timeframe. When Congress proposed the ERA to the states in 1972, it set a deadline of seven years. Only 35 states ratified the amendment during that time period—three states short, bringing the ERA to a dead end in 1979. Additionally, five of the 35 states that originally ratified the ERA rescinded their ratifications, withdrawing support once they understood its flaws—meaning the vote deficit was even greater when the time expired.  

Last week, ADF attorneys representing Concerned Women for America and Susan B. Anthony List filed a friend-of-the-court brief that urges the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to acknowledge that the ERA’s ratification deadline has expired. We must be able to rely on what the law says. If the effort to illegally sneak the ERA into the Constitution is successful, that would ignore the rule of law and violate the Constitution’s amendment process.


To borrow a phrase from Mean Girls: “Stop trying to make [the ERA] happen. It’s not going to happen.”

That is, unless it goes through the entire process laid out in the Constitution once again. After all, if (and that’s a big “if”) the ERA was worth ratifying, it would be worth ratifying in a legitimate manner. But given its many flaws, it seems unlikely—not to mention unwise.

Sarah Kramer

Sarah Kramer

Digital Content Specialist

Sarah worked as an investigative reporter before joining the Alliance Defending Freedom team.

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