The Equal Rights Amendment is one of the most polarizing topics in American politics. Ostensibly, the purpose of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) is to ensure that men and women are guaranteed the same rights by law. The core text of the ERA is short and simple:
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 text alone doesn’t seem harmful. If interpreted properly, it could be helpful, as it is obviously wrong to unfairly discriminate against women. Unfortunately, rather than addressing legitimate discrimination grievances, this clause has instead been interpreted as granting a right to abortion. Pro-choice advocates are using the ERA as a Trojan horse to sneak the right to abortion into the U.S. Constitution under the guise of “gender equality.” [Tweet that!]
Adding an amendment to the U.S. Constitution requires two things: Congress must pass the amendment, and 38 states must ratify (pass) it. After Congress passed the ERA in 1972, the states had 10 years to meet this ratification quota. 35 states ratified the ERA within five years, and the amendment was initially very popular. However, this popularity was present because many states did not believe abortion to be a “right’ protected in the ERA, as Roe v. Wade had not been decided yet when the ERA passed. Consequently, five states rescinded their ratification in the years following Roe. The Constitution does not specify whether a state may rescind its ratification of an amendment, and the Supreme Court will likely have to make a ruling on this, which could be a long and controversial process.
As of now, 37 states have ratified the ERA at some point in time. The initial ten-year ratification deadline has expired; however, if one more state ratifies the ERA, the amendment could still be added to the U.S. Constitution if it is passed by Congress again. While the current Republican majority in the Senate would likely block the ERA, this is not a long-term solution. Pro-choice Democrats who support the ERA will almost certainly regain both chambers of Congress eventually, so if a 38th state ratifies it and the Supreme Court determines all of those ratifications to be valid, it will only be a matter of time until the ERA becomes the next amendment in the U.S. Constitution.
American abortion laws are among the most radical in the world. Unfortunately, though almost everyone knows that Roe v. Wade made abortion legal at the federal level, few people understand exactly how the case changed the country’s abortion laws. This gives me the opportunity to educate people when dialoguing about abortion at Arizona State University, and I’ve found that many pro-choice people change their attitude about Roe when they understand it better.
Picture Credit: Duncan Lock, Dflock – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0
One Way to Dialogue about Roe
Many people label themselves as “pro-choice,” but this label doesn’t tell us much. People’s views on abortion restrictions can vary greatly, from wanting no restrictions whatsoever, to only having legal abortion available in the first trimester in the case of rape. However, the majority of people I’ve spoken to on college campuses will vaguely agree that they don’t support late-term abortion. After providing them with a few simple facts about late-term abortion, almost everyone will agree such procedures should be illegal. The example dialogue below illustrates how a pro-life advocate can help a pro-choice person realize that they disagree with the extremism of Roe because of their existing beliefs about late-term abortion:
On September 18th, Netflix released a documentary about abortion called “Reversing Roe.” I watched it, hoping that it was made in an unbiased way, fairly showing both sides of the debate. Unfortunately, as with most documentaries about abortion, this one was edited in a very slanted way, I think to intentionally manipulate the audience. As someone who studies video editing in his spare time (I know, I’m fun, aren’t I?), I recognized lots of subtle editing tricks the filmmakers were using to make people feel comfortable with pro-choice people and uncomfortable with pro-life people.
I decided that the best way for me to equip pro-life advocates to have productive conversations with their pro-choice friends about this documentary was to make a series of videos showing clips from the film and then provide commentary, both on the biased editing tricks as well as responding to the more substantive pro-choice arguments in the film. I spent the next few weeks doing a careful analysis of the film, shooting about 90 minutes of footage of me responding to the documentary, and then working with a new volunteer on editing them into shorter clips to post on YouTube. I’m modeling a video style that’s become very popular lately, where an expert (like a doctor or lawyer) watches clips from a show or movie and then comments about it. I haven’t seen any other pro-life advocates use this style, and I think these videos came out so great that we might do more in the future.
Click on the embedded playlist below to watch the clips for yourself, but I’ll make a few of my points below to give you a sneak peek.