CBS This Morning on Thursday devoted an entire segment to pushing the revival of the long-dead Equal Rights Amendment. Though reporter Jan Crawford did highlight a bit of opposition to the effort, she left out key details, such as the amendment’s connection to supporting abortion. Co-host Tony Dokoupil described it as a move “that's intended to outlaw discrimination against women.” Also not mentioned in the segment? The fact that four of the states which passed the ERA have since rescinded their votes.
In Virginia on Wednesday, the now-Democrat controlled state Senate and House moved to the brink of passing the ERA. Crawford explained, “Most of those 38 states approved the ERA More than 40 years ago. But it never received the three fourths majority needed to become a full amendment.” She highlighted that the new push was “celebrated as a possible turning point by ERA supporters Donna Granski who has been fighting for the amendment since the 1970s.”
Granski, a League of Women Voters representative, cheered, “The only way we can guarantee gender equality is for to it be enshrined in the United States Constitution. That's what today means the to me.” Crawford then touted a child at the Virginia Senate. The excited girl praised, “It was just, like, very empowering to see it get passed and to see that I could have an equal future.”
To her credit, the journalist included clips of the late Phyllis Schlafly opposing the ERA. Also, her daughter, Eagle Forum Chairman Anne Schlafly: “It will cause harm to women in all kinds of other areas without giving them any benefit.”
The ERA would provide the framework for an equality argument: Women’s equality necessarily requires reproductive and bodily autonomy, and without control over our bodies, women cannot participate as full and equal citizens in this country.
After decades of political dormancy, the ERA has recently come back into play. The amendment, which was passed by Congress in 1972, stalled after proponents were only able to get 35 of the required 38 states to ratify it by a 1982 deadline. The effort picked up steam in the 1990s, when a plausible argument emerged that the deadline wasn’t constitutionally mandated and could therefore be changed.
The text of the ERA itself doesn’t itself mention abortion. It reads, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.” A right to abortion based on an Equal Rights Amendment wouldn’t be about the abortion procedure itself. It would be about women’s ability to live equally as full citizens under the law.
Additionally, Crawford is being misleading when she says that the ERA has 38 states backing it. It actually has 34. Four states, Nebraska, Tennessee, Idaho and Kentucky have all voted to rescind their earlier ratification.
A transcript of the segment is below. Click “expand” to read more:
CBS This Morning
TONY DOKOUPIL: A long court fight could be on the way over a constitutional amendment that seemed to have died back in the 1980s. Virginia is on the brink of becoming the 38th state to pass the Equal Rights Amendment that's intended to outlaw discrimination against women after both state houses passed landmark legislation. Now, most of those 38 states approved the ERA More than 40 years ago. But it never received the three fourths majority needed to become a full amendment. In the past three years, legislatures in Nevada, Illinois, and now Virginia appear to be giving the ERA new life. Jan Crawford is on Capitol Hill for us. Jan, good morning, so what are supporters hoping for with this new vote?
JAN CRAWFORD: I mean they are hoping that it will be a trigger that will eventually add the Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution. As you said, most people thought that fight was long over when the necessary numbers failed to approve it before that 1982 congressional deadline. Now they are hoping that if it gets to this point courts will let them ignore that original deadline.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN IN VA STATEHOUSE: For the women of Virginia and women of America the resolution has finally passed.
CRAWFORD: The votes, Wednesday, in the Virginia House —
UNIDENTIFIED MAN IN STATE SENATE: Senate joint resolution one is agreed to.
CRAWFORD: — and in the Senate were celebrated as a possible turning point by ERA supporters Donna Granski who has been fighting for the amendment since the 1970s.
DONNA GRANSKI (League of Women Voters of the Richmond Metropolitan Area Board Member): The only way we can guarantee gender equality is for to it be enshrined in the United States Constitution. That's what today means the to me.
CRAWFORD: The fight over the ERA started in 1972 after Congress approved language that, if passed by three fourths of state legislatures would amend the Constitution to guarantee rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged on account of sex.
BETTY FORD: I spoke out on this important issue because of my deep personal convictions.
CRAWFORD: With support from high-profile Republicans like First Lady Betty Ford and large demonstrations by supporters of the women's movement, 35 of the required 38 states passed the amendment in just five years. But the efforts stalled when conservative lawyer Phyllis Schlafly launched an anti-ERA movement.
PHYLLIS SCHLAFLY (Opponent of the ERA): You got to be kidding to say we got to support something that would require our daughters to be in combat in the next war.
CRAWFORD: A 1982 deadline for ratifying the ERA came and went and the effort appeared over.
DAN RATHER The chime struck at midnight for ratification of the ERA Amendment. At that moment, the ERA becomes DOA.
CRAWFORD: Now, more than four decades later supporters revived the amendment. Now, opponents like Anne Schlafly Cori say her mother’s arguments remain valid.
ANNE SCHLAFLY CORI (Eagle Forum Chairman): It will cause harm to women in all kinds of other areas without giving them any benefit.
CRAWFORD: In Virginia supporters made the fight about next generation.
EASTAN WEBER (ERA Youth activist): It was just, like, very empowering to see it get passed and to see that I could have an equal future.
CRAWFORD: Now the measure in Virginia has yet to clear another set of votes and then people say that a new fight then will start. Supporters will have to go to court and argue that original 1982 deadline is not binding and they should get to count the 35 states that passed it before 1982 to get to the magic number of 38 states needed to change the Constitution. Anthony?