Some Utah cottage members of Big Ocean Women rallied against the Equal Rights Amendment at the Utah State Capitol on December 4th of last year. There was a big push to make Utah the 38th state to ratify the ERA; however, Virginia became the 38th state on January 15, 2020. What happens next is not so simple. Even though the proposed amendment originally required 38 states to ratify it to make it into the Constitution, it also required that those votes be received by June of 1982. The Justice Department has said the following about the deadline: “The ERA Resolution has expired and is no longer pending before the States.” There are also five states that have tried to rescind their support of the ERA. There are still major discussions about whether or not the entire ratification process will need to start over, and it will likely be left to the courts to decide the fate of the outdated amendment.
The ERA states the following: “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” It sounds pretty good until you look at the problems this language could cause. Carolina Allen, leader of Big Ocean Women, believes the ERA is dangerous for women with the language it has presently. Carolina addresses her concerns in an article she wrote for the Salt Lake Tribune: “With the recent support for the Equal Rights Amendment, some things are concerning to me. For starters, the original intent and focus of the 1972 ERA was on women, with the vast majority of the culture in agreement on what it meant to be a woman. But what is the definition of ‘woman’ today? What does the word ‘sex’ as used in amendment mean today?” These questions must be addressed in order to assure women the protection to which they are entitled.
Supporters believe the ERA will fix the pay gap and get of rid of discrimination in the workplace. They also believe it will help women find more protection in domestic violence and sexual harassment cases. It would theoretically guard against discrimination for pregnancy and motherhood. These are issues that have other legal protection in place to address them, but there is always room for improvement.
Those that oppose the ERA are concerned that it will hurt women more than it will help them. Carolina feels it may erase women altogether. She says, ”The language collapse of biological sex into ‘gender,’ obscures the ability to talk about what is happening. All over the world, institutions and nonprofits set aside for women (women’s shelters, prisons, abuse and rape groups, schools, etc.) are increasingly pressured to neuter spaces specifically for biological females.” There is also the fear that women will not be protected from being drafted into war, that they will be required to enlist at 18. Mothers can be pulled away from their children during war times. Valerie Hudson, a feminist scholar, said it best: “But if there is no appetite for drafting women aged 18-24 into the infantry — and indeed, I would argue that would actually represent a deepened form of misogyny and discrimination because women already give their lives for their country in a way men do not– then with the ERA amendment there is no longer any possible legal grounds for a male-only draft in wartime.” Finally, one of the biggest concerns of passing the ERA is that it will take restrictions off abortion. According to the equalrightsamendment.org, “The ERA would provide a strong legal defense against a rollback of the significant advances in women’s rights (including but not limited to Roe vs Wade and the Lily Ledbetter Act).” Without restrictions, women could get an abortion for any reason all the way up to birth. There is also a great concern that taxpayers would have to fund abortion because there could be no discrimination for medical procedures based on gender, including pregnancy. The promise of the ERA protecting women is not as clear as many would have us believe.
As Big Ocean Women, we join together with our global sisters to protect women and motherhood. We know that gender is essential to a robust economy and society. In the definition of maternal feminism it reads, “Women are physically, psychologically, emotionally, and socially different than men. Women thus have unique gifts, talents, and skills to offer the human family… For so long we have been trying to operate within a system that is increasingly denying us our powerful biological uniqueness.”
Our contributions as women are of great worth, and are especially needed in the world today. We know there is true value in being a woman. We must respect and defend our feminine nature. It would be disastrous to have womanhood and the feminine completely written out of the constitution and out of history.