Letter to Legislators on ERA


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Please see the letter below that VSHL is sending to members of the General Assembly to highlight our concerns about how the ERA will eliminate any restrictions on abortion.   

6767 Forest Hill Ave., Suite 304 * Richmond, VA 23225

Tel: 804.560.8745 ** **

December 2018

Re: ERA fight revived in Virginia and threatens Pro-life laws

Dear Senator/Delegate:

As you are probably aware, in recent weeks there have been a series of news articles and commentary about renewed efforts around the Commonwealth to resurrect the long defeated so- called Equal Rights Amendment. These commentaries suggest that there is a groundswell of support for this questionable endeavor, when in fact the support is coming from well-organized forces, including the pro-abortion groups NARAL and Planned Parenthood. What all of them have failed to share with the public is the very real connection between the ERA and abortion!

As you may know, there have been several efforts recently to gain support in the Commonwealth at the local level from County Boards of Supervisors, local PTA’s and other public associations. At this date some have voted to support the ERA, but thanks to alert local citizens in one county, Prince William, the motion to support the ERA was defeated. Other counties have passed this motion but have done so with stealth and before allowing public comment.

Once again, the ERA has been filed to be introduced in the 2019 General Assembly. This issue will be a priority issue for VSHL.

Because of the seriousness of this threat to pro-life action under the law, VSHL will be scoring any vote on the ERA during the 2019 Session as the most important pro-life vote this year. A vote to support the ERA will be scored as a pro-abortion vote.

Virginia Society for Human Life was on the front lines opposing the original ERA effort in the 1970s. Legal experts, then and now, continue to share their alarm that the ERA does pose a very serious threat to pro-life laws.

Let me be clear, while VSHL does not take a position on the merits of the ERA itself, we have a longstanding position opposing the proposed 1972 version of the pro-abortion ERA. Because VSHL is very much aware of the legal threat posed by the original ERA to existing and future pro-life laws.

Leading pro-abortion groups – including NARAL, the ACLU, and Planned Parenthood -- have strongly urged state courts to construe state ERAs, containing language virtually identical to the language of the 1972 federal ERA proposal, to invalidate laws that treat abortion differently from other “medical procedures,” including laws restricting tax-funding of abortion and laws requiring parental notification or consent for minors’ abortions.

A landmark case from New Mexico proves that there is grave reason to be concerned.

In 1973, New Mexico adopted a state ERA (“Equality of rights under law shall not be denied on account of the sex of any person”) virtually identical to the federal language that SCR 194/HCR 109 purports to ratify. In New Mexico, this ERA language was subsequently used as the sole basis for a successful attack the state policy against tax-funding of abortion. In 1998, every justice on the New Mexico Supreme Court agreed that the state ERA makes it unconstitutional for the state Medicaid program to refuse to fund “medically necessary” abortions (which simply means any abortion performed by a licensed medical professional) if procedures sought by men (e.g., prostate surgery) are funded. The case was NM Right to Choose / NARAL v. Johnson, No. 1999-NMSC-005 – you can read or download it here: http://nrlc.org/uploads/era/ERANewMexicoSupremeCourt.pdf. (Moreover, similar arguments regarding tax-funding of abortion have been accepted by some courts in other states, including Connecticut.) 

The New Mexico Supreme Court based its ruling solely on the state ERA, and the justices merely adopted the construction of the ERA urged upon it in briefs submitted by Planned Parenthood, NARAL, the ACLU, the Center for Reproductive Law and Policy, and the NOW Legal Defense and Education Fund. The doctrine that the ERA language invalidates limitations on tax-funded abortion was also supported in briefs filed by the state Women's Bar Association, Public Health Association, and League of Women Voters.

The link below is a good simple analysis of the objections VSHL and NRLC have with the current version of the ERA:


A suggested amendment to any future ERA, “Nothing in this Article [the ERA] shall be construed to grant, secure, or deny any right relating to abortion or the funding thereof”, was developed by National Right to Life Committee and concerned Members of Congress in 1983. Adding such a clause to any future ERA could clarify the legal effects of the ERA, with respect to abortion.  However, it has been opposed by pro-abortion advocates for the ERA across the country and the federal level.

In recent years, some states that have passed the ERA have seen their pro-life laws challenged and some have been forced to pay for abortions. Access to abortion has been defined as a right and pro-life laws as a hindrance to the application of equal rights. Under the ERA, only unborn girls and boys are to be discriminated against.

Be aware that what the Virginia General Assembly is being urged to adopt is a purported ratification of the 1972 ERA language, and that language is locked in.  If the 1972 ERA becomes part of the Constitution, it will do what we have described, and there is nothing that a future Congress can do (short of yet another constitutional amendment) that will change it.

If that 1972 ERA is made law here in the Commonwealth our pro-life laws will be in grave jeopardy. It will absolutely:

            • Overturn the women’s right to know and ultrasound laws
            • Require taxpayer funding of all abortions
            • Overturn all reasonable prolife laws including the partial-birth abortion ban

Let me be clear. The ERA fight was over long ago. In 1982 the U.S. Supreme Court explicitly declared that all legal issues surrounding the 1972 ERA resolution (including the validity of rescissions passed by five ratifying state legislatures prior to the deadline) were “moot” because this ERA was already dead. In more recent years, ERA supporters in Congress have repeatedly introduced new ERA proposals, implicitly recognizing that the 1972 ERA is long dead. This attempt in Virginia is another example of this back-door effort to pass a dangerous law.

Virginia must not fall in to the trap of being pressured to become the 38th State to pass the ERA. Millions of unborn girls, and boys, are at risk from this veiled attempt to enshrine a right to abortion in our Constitution.

Thank you for giving this matter your attention. VSHL is grateful to you for your longstanding pro-life support and is counting on you to protect innocent unborn children from this very real threat.


Olivia Gans Turner,