Amy McInerny, Guest Commentary

As 2019 begins, we find proponents of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) seeking to take Virginia back to 1972 in an effort to change the course of the future of our Commonwealth and nation. The ERA is short and seems simply to be a neutral measure advocating for the equality of sexes. However, the ambiguity of the language disguises significant negative consequences which must not be ignored.

Falsehoods and confusion are spreading throughout our Commonwealth regarding the reality of this amendment. Proponents of the ERA are urging the Virginia General Assembly to “make history” by becoming the 38th and final state to ratify the ERA so that the amendment may become part of the U.S. Constitution.

This is misleading at best. Congress passed the ERA in 1972 with a ratification deadline of 1979. Ratification failed but an extension was granted to 1982. That deadline also passed without the required 38 states.

Moreover, five states also rescinded their ratifications once serious concerns began to arise over the ERA’s unintended consequences that are detrimental to women. In 1994, Virginia’s attorney general called the ERA a nullity. It is disingenuous to suggest that this moot amendment can be ratified.

Despite the ERA’s mootness, Virginia is being targeted. One likely reason is that enactment has abortion implications. Although claims are made that it has nothing to do with abortion, in states such as New Mexico where the ERA is part of its state Constitution, it has been interpreted by the state Supreme Court to force tax-payer funded abortions and is used by pro-abortion groups to further their agenda.

The ERA could also potentially eliminate Hyde Amendment protections and secure abortion as a Constitutional right. Any common-sense restrictions on abortion, such as third-trimester or partial-birth abortion bans, parental consent, informed consent or conscience-related exemptions could also vanish.

Also alarming is that the ERA has many potential consequences which will harm women and families. Because it defines equality as sameness, different treatment based on sex would be unlawful.

This means women’s shelters which help abused women could become illegal. Benefits which only women receive, such as employer accommodations for pregnant or breast-feeding mothers, could be in peril.

The ERA could generate privacy concerns if sex integration is required for prisons, school locker rooms, showers or athletic competition. It could permit males and females to compete for inclusion on the same sports teams. Is that the future we want for Virginia?

As drafted, the ERA is anti-women and anti-children — especially the most vulnerable waiting to be born. Let’s proclaim the truth to our legislators. Call, email or write to urge them to oppose the dangers and deceptions of the ERA. Go to vacatholic.org and click on “Take Action” for an easy way to contact your representative. Let’s educate others and raise our voices in defense of women and children.

Amy McInerny is Respect Life director in the Office of Marriage, Family and Respect Life for the Diocese of Arlington.