Equal Rights Amendment clears first hurdle

Equal Rights Amendment clears first hurdle
Supporters of the Equal Rights Amendment rallied outside the Capitol on the first day of the 2019 General Assembly session. (Ned Oliver/Virginia Mercury)

A push to make Virginia the final state needed to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment cleared its first hurdle Wednesday, passing out of committee in the Senate with enough bi-partisan support to nearly guarantee passage when it hits the floor.

The more conservative House of Delegates, where it didn’t even get a hearing last year, is likely to be a heavier lift.

Objections Republican opponents raised Wednesday fell into two broad categories: First, that it’s no longer a valid amendment and there’s no point in passing it. And second, that it would enshrine all kinds of things conservatives generally oppose, like abortion, in the Constitution.

Opponents like the Virginia Family Foundation point to three other states that incorporated ERAs into their constitutions and subsequent court decisions cited the amendment in striking down restrictions on public funding for medically necessary abortions.

“Since only women become pregnant, discrimination against pregnancy by not funding abortion when it is medically necessary and when all other medical expenses are paid by the state for both men and women is sex-oriented discrimination,” wrote judges of the Connecticut Superior Court in a 1986 decision.

That, however, is as far it’s gone in practice.

Leaders of the Virginia campaign insist that abortion concerns raised by opponents are a red herring, noting that women already have a right to an abortion under Roe V. Wade, which has nothing to do with the ERA, because, obviously, it hasn’t passed.

And in Virginia, Medicaid already covers medically-necessary abortions, as well as when the pregnancy stems from rape or incest.