Conservative activists urge lawmakers to reject ERA

Conservative activists urge lawmakers to reject ERA
The Family Foundation and other groups that oppose abortion urge Virginia legislators to oppose ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

By Kathleen Shaw | Capital News Service

RICHMOND, Va. — The Family Foundation and other groups that oppose abortion are urging Virginia legislators to oppose ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. They say the ERA, which is currently before the full Senate, is anti-women, anti-American and "a smokescreen for abortion."

Conservative activists held a news conference and met with legislators this week to voice concerns about the ERA, which they refer to as the “Everything Related to Abortion Act.” They said the proposed constitutional amendment uses women as pawns to push forward an abortion-rights agenda.

Patrina Mosley, director of a group called Life, Culture and Women’s Advocacy, criticized the amendment with a tongue-in-cheek reference to the feminist movement.

“The ERA is really a smokescreen for abortion,” Mosley said. “This is not really about women. Women are continually used as a prop to push an agenda, and the ‘Time’s Up’ on that.”

On Wednesday, the Senate Privileges and Elections Committee voted 8-6 in favor of SJ 284, which would add Virginia to the 37 states that have already ratified the ERA. The Senate is scheduled to vote on the resolution next week.

The resolution, sponsored by Sen. Glen Sturtevant, R-Richmond, would then need approval from a House committee and a House of Delegates majority. ERA supporters hope that with ratification by Virginia, they would have the three-fourths majority of the states needed to amend the U.S. Constitution.

But some experts say it’s too late to ratify the ERA because Congress set the original ratification deadline to 1982.

Sen. Amanda Chase, R-Chesterfield, is sponsoring what she views as an alternative to the ERA -- SJ 275, or the Equal Rights Affirmation. Chase’s resolution “reaffirms that all persons residing in Virginia are afforded equal protection under the law. The resolution cites numerous guarantees of equality that currently exist in both federal and state law while refuting the necessity, utility, and viability of the Equal Rights Amendment,” according to a summary by the Legislative Information System.

The ERA declares that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.” Chase said that wording is vague and could have unexpected repercussions.

“It's concerning to me that the ERA treats women identically to men, not equally to men -- lending to it the current fad of gender-fluidity,” Chase said. “Until you change that word to female, then I cannot support this legislation.”

Tina Whittington, executive vice president of Students for Life of America, said the ERA isn’t needed because women are already treated as equals in laws and courts. Further, Whittington said prohibiting gender bias would affect previously passed federal laws and be harmful to women.

“Many protections designed specifically for women, for mothers, would be impacted,” Whittington said.

Some women who spoke against the ERA at Thursday’s press conference said they’ve had a hard fight against the measure. Eva Scott, the first woman elected to the Virginia Senate, voted against the ERA in the 1970s as a delegate and senator. Scott said feminists do not need a constitutional amendment to be successful and rise to power.

“Women are really selling themselves short,” Scott said. “All these women really need is to embrace the truth that equality is already theirs and the whole world is at their -- and our -- fingertips.”

Capital News Service is a program of Virginia Commonwealth University’s Robertson School of Media and Culture. Students in the program provide state government coverage for a variety of media outlets in Virginia.