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Equal Rights Amendment narrowly defeated

The Equal Rights Amendment, which pro-lifers fear could enshrine abortion rights in the commonwealth, failed to pass out of the Virginia House of Delegates Feb. 21. 

“The ERA is officially dead in Virginia,” said the Virginia Catholic Conference, the lobbying arm of the Virginia bishops, in a Feb. 21 email. “ERA proponents’ procedural efforts to circumvent long-established rules in the Virginia House of Delegates failed.”

During the 1960s and 1970s, feminists advocated for ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment, hoping to make it part of the U.S. Constitution. Though the deadline for the ratification passed 30 years ago without enough state support, some activists still advocate for legislatures to adopt the measure. 

The passage of the ERA in other states has led to increased protections for government-funded abortion, said Felicia Pricenor, associate director of the Virginia Catholic Conference. The organization noted in a Feb. 19 email, “The New Mexico Supreme Court unanimously ruled, on the basis of its state ERA, that denial of taxpayer funding for abortions is ‘sex discrimination’ thereby requiring taxpayer-funded abortions.”

In January, the Virginia ERA bill passed 26-14 out of the Senate but failed to pass out of subcommittee in the House after a full hearing. The bill only could be brought to a full floor vote if two-thirds of the delegates agreed, but proponents of the ERA didn’t have the votes, said Pricenor. So, Del. Hala Ayala (D-Woodbridge) and Del. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) introduced similar resolutions that would have allowed a majority vote to bring a resolution to the floor. Both measures were narrowly defeated. 

Though the amendment failed this year, Pricenor believes Catholic pro-lifers should remain vigilant. “In 2020, they will be back in even bigger numbers,” she said. She urges Catholics to show their support for pro-life laws by attending the Virginia March for Life in Richmond April 3.

“The ERA forces have vowed to use this issue in upcoming Virginia elections. They are not telling Virginians the truth about how the ERA would dismantle the strong pro-life laws that are in place in the commonwealth. Nor will they admit that the ERA will require Virginians pay for all abortions with taxpayer funds,” said Olivia Gans Turner, president of the Virginia Society for Human Life.

“Pro-life people will continue educating our communities about the real dangers behind this so-called Equal Rights Amendment,” she said. “There is nothing equal about a law that strips away the right to life for all unborn children permanently.”


© Arlington Catholic Herald 2019