The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) published a letter this week warning Senate members against supporting the revival of the Equal Rights Amendment.
The Catholic prelates voiced serious concern Monday regarding a motion in the Senate that would remove the decades-passed deadline for the ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) — a proposed amendment to the constitution that would guarantee “equal rights under the law” to all Americans regardless of sex.
“We are writing to you to express our alarm with a number of far-reaching consequences that will arise from the proposed Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and its negative impacts to the common good and to religious freedom,” the USCCB wrote. “We strongly urge you to oppose it and any resolution attempting to declare it ratified.”
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The amendment was first proposed nearly 100 years ago, not long after passage of the 19th Amendment which gave women the right to vote.
Congress did not pass the amendment until 1972. States were given seven years to ratify the amendment. But, by that time, only 30 of the required 38 states had ratified the ERA. The deadline was extended to 1982, but by then some states had rescinded their earlier support.
Last month, Democratic Rep. Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Sen. Ben Cardin of Maryland put forward a joint resolution to revisit the ratification of the ERA.
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The lawmakers’ joint resolution would remove the long-passed 1982 deadline for ratification of the ERA in order to retroactively recognize the amendment as valid.
“For far too long, women and LGBTQ+ folks have been relegated to second-class legal status by the courts and in law, and it is long past time we do something about it,” said Pressley, adding, “Constitutional equality is powerful, and with women and the states having done their part to ratify the ERA, Congress must swiftly follow suit.”
The USCCB warned that modern interpretations of the decades-old legislation would expand far beyond the original intentions of the bill and force states to make abortion-related accommodations.
“One consequence of the ERA would be the likely requirement of federal funding for abortions. At least two states have construed their own equal rights amendments, with language analogous to that of the federal ERA, to require government funding of abortion,” the bishops wrote.
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They continued, “Both supporters and opponents of abortion believe that the federal ERA would have this effect, as well as restrain the ability of federal and state governments to enact other measures regulating abortion, such as third-trimester or partial birth abortion bans, parental consent, informed consent, conscience-related exemptions, and other provisions.”
“While in the early years of the ERA debate some considered these abortion threats to be remote or ‘scare tactics,’ abortion advocates in recent years have freely admitted that they intend to use the ERA to litigate such abortion claims and anticipate that such cases would be successful,” the bishops explained.
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According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law.”
Early in the letter, the bishops insisted that the Catholic Church holds gender equality and the human rights of women as a crucial concern of the religion.
“Catholic teaching speaks very clearly and strongly about the equality of men and women,” the bishops wrote, citing the Catechism’s teachings on the issue. “The bishops’ explicit concern for just wages and the fair treatment of women goes back at least 100 years.”
They added, “Moreover, recent popes like St. John Paul II and Francis have spoken powerfully about the need to do more to address unjust inequities between women and men. For the needs of those in challenging circumstances in particular, whom many of our ministries serve, just last fall we called lawmakers to radical solidarity and offered numerous policy recommendations to provide women and their families meaningful assistance and support.”
The letter was signed by multiple committee chairmen of the USCCB, including: Bishop Robert Barron of Winona-Rochester, Bishop Michael Burbidge of Arlington, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, and Ukrainian Catholic Archbishop Borys Gudziak of Philadelphia.
Fox News’ Bradford Betz contributed to this report.
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