Make Equal Rights Amendment 'Abortion Neutral,' Pro-Lifers Urge

July 7, 2008 - 8:06 PM

(CNSNews.com) - The National Right to Life Committee is urging senators not to support the Women's Equality Amendment -- also known as the Equal Rights Amendment -- unless it contains language preventing tax-funded abortion on demand.

S. J. Res. 10 would add to the Constitution the following amendment: "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article."

The National Right to Life Committee warns that leading pro-abortion groups, including NARAL, the American Civil Liberties Union and Planned Parenthood, are pressing state courts to interpret state-passed Equal Rights Amendments as requiring tax-funded abortion on demand.

It happened in New Mexico. In November 1998, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled 5-0 that the state must pay for elective abortions under the state's Medicaid program. The court found that New Mexico's Equal Rights Amendment barred the state from restricting abortion differently than other "medically necessary procedures" sought by men.

"During the 1970s and 1980s, many pro-ERA advocates insisted that there was 'no connection' between ERAs and abortion, but NRLC warned otherwise," NRLC Legislative Director Douglas Johnson wrote in a March 29 letter to U.S. senators.

"As we predicted, pro-abortion advocacy groups have increasingly employed the ERA-abortion argument in state courts, and in New Mexico we saw the devastating result of enacting an ERA that does not include explicit abortion-neutral language.

"Once a court adopts the legal doctrine that a law targeting abortion is by definition a form of discrimination based on sex, and therefore impermissible under an ERA, the same doctrine would invalidate virtually any limitation on abortion," Johnson said.

The NRLC noted that the ACLU's "Reproductive Freedom Project" has published a booklet encouraging pro-abortion litigators to use state ERAs as legal weapons against state parental notification laws as well.

The NRLC is urging the Senate to adopt "abortion neutral" language originally proposed by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) in 1983. It says, "Nothing in this Article [the ERA] shall be construed to grant, secure, or deny any right relating to abortion or the funding thereof."

"This proposed revision would not change the current legal status of abortion, nor would it permit the ERA itself to be employed for anti-abortion purposes," NRLC's Johnson said. "Rather, the revision would simply make the ERA itself neutral regarding abortion policy."

The NRLC said it would withdraw its opposition to the proposed federal Equal Rights Amendment if the abortion-neutral amendment is added.

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