Leader’s Message – “Is There a War on Women?” – March 2015

You bet there is! According to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), this terminology “describes the legislative and rhetorical attacks on women and women’s rights taking place across the nation,” including “a wide-range of policy efforts designed to place restrictions on women’s health care and erode protections for women and their families.” Although an overwhelming majority of Americans favor choice in reproductive decisions, the goal of Republicans, at state and federal levels, is to deprive women of their rights and to make access to facilities where women receive health and reproductive services prohibitive. Here are just a few examples: restricting contraception, cutting off funding for Planned Parenthood, state-mandated ultrasounds, abortion waiting periods, forcing women to tell their employers why they want birth control, and prohibiting insurance companies from covering abortions.

 

But this war on women is not limited to reproductive justice; we experience misogyny on college campuses and in the workplace, on the streets and in our homes, even in the world of video gaming. Although an argument can be made that conditions have improved for women since gaining suffrage in 1920, the 14th amendment is more often used to help corporations than women, and the fate of the Equal Rights Amendment remains uncertain at best. As Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia famously said, “Certainly the Constitution does not require discrimination on the basis of sex. The only issue is whether it prohibits it. It doesn’t.” Legislation and legal cases have rectified some inequities, but created others; also, legislation can be repealed and court cases overturned.

 

What we need is an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that states simply and succinctly:

“Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification.”

 

This amendment, first presented by Alice Paul in 1923 at the 75th Anniversary of the Seneca Falls Convention, and introduced in every Congressional session between 1923 and 1972, when it was finally passed by Congress, was ratified by 35 states, three short of the 38 needed by the 1982 deadline. Since then, the ERA, which polls indicate is supported by more than 90% of Americans, has been reintroduced in every Congressional session, but never once come to a vote.

 

If those people insisting that there is no war on women, that it is merely a political stratagem, are serious, I invite them to join the ERA Coalition (http://www.eracoalition.org), where they can sign a petition and donate to the cause. They can also purchase and read Jessica Neuwirth’s book Equal Means Equal that tells the story of legal cases that highlight the need for an ERA and contemporary cases where women’s rights are threatened.

 

Another Supreme Court Justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, recently said, “I would like my granddaughters, when they pick up the Constitution, to see that notion – that women and men are persons of equal stature – I’d like them to see that is a basic principle of our society.” I want my daughter to see herself in the Constitution. I want every woman to be treated equally under the laws of our country, and every man to recognize her equality. How about you?

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