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Paul Abrams

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The Equal Rights Amendment: Now Is the Time

Posted: 03/ 1/2012 12:25 pm

One tactic of the Koch-financed right-wing is to keep people, who would like just to live quiet, normal lives according to 21st-century understanding of the world, constantly embattled on the defense, by throwing at them so many ugly and regressive laws that they have all they can do to protect themselves against them.

But, the best defense is a good offense. Now is the perfect time to press for enactment, finally, of the Equal Rights Amendment.

Justice Antonin Scalia informed us last year that the Constitution does not protect women against discriminatory acts. As Scalia goes, so go Justices Thomas, Alito and Roberts.

Do American women feel secure entrusting their entire legal protection to Justice Anthony Kennedy?

Since Republicans took over state houses and the House of Representatives, they have waged an open war against women.

In Virginia and Texas, they have forced women to have medically-unnecessary ultrasound exams without their consent. The absence of consent violates Nuremberg principles of ethical medical practices, inflicts what the law considers to be an "assault" and, as if that were not enough, forces women to pay for the privilege themselves.

Most recently -- although one hastens to add that this is coming so quickly that by the time this is completed, even more egregious acts may have occurred--the Blunt Amendment, allowing employers to determine whether health plans offered by their companies will include coverage for contraceptives, is lurching toward a Senate vote.

Having ceded Congress to Wall Street and big business, Republicans will now put women's medical choices in their hands as well. One can hardly imagine the fun they will have at next year's corporate shareholders' meetings, forcing shareholders to vote on whether the company's employees will have contraceptive coverage.

The same Republicans who rail against any public regulation of the boardroom as a matter of principle of "small government," are perfectly content to extend government into the privacy of the bedroom and the examination room.

If there were ever a series of events that demonstrated how critical it was for women to have their right to equal treatment enshrined in a Constitutional Amendment, it is these. The Equal Rights Amendment ("ERA") says that equality under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of sex.

Just in case they might be necessary, bills to extend the approval period of the ERA were introduced last year. Build the pressure to bring them to a vote. Run on it in Congressional districts and Senate races. The Democratic National Committee and the president should include passage of the ERA as one of its top priorities. The president should give a major address on the subject, not unlike President Kennedy's address on race during his tenure.

Legislators in the 15 states that have not ratified the ERA should also be pressured to bring it to a vote. Virginia, Florida, Missouri, Nevada(!) would be good places to focus, but the Mississippi vote against the "personhood" amendment suggests that even the Deep South may be awakened from its slumber.

Get the Republican presidential candidates to declare themselves on the ERA. Even better, let us have the "First Lady" wannabees, and Gingrich's "Third Lady," talk about their own views.

The citizenry is aroused. The goals, the condescension, the ugliness, and brutality of the war on women are in daily evidence.

The implications of not having a clear constitutional statement of women's rights are not theoretical. They have become palpable. As unbelievable as it seems, the comforting feeling of "It can't happen here," is now a dangerous frame of mind for women's health. Decades of progress, fighting both for rights and for a change in mindset, are being swept away in a tsunami of bronze-age legislation.

The time is now. Let us, finally, pass the Equal Rights Amendment.

Imagine what we could honestly tell the Taliban when we do!

 

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