“Millions of American women still face inequality under the law and injustice in their careers and lives,” Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a speech before the vote. “It’s not just about women, it’s about America. The E.R.A. will strengthen America, unleashing the full power of women in our economy and upholding the value of equality in our democracy.”
Republican opponents argued the amendment is unnecessary, because the 14th Amendment already guarantees equal treatment for all citizens under the law. They noted that five states — Nebraska, Tennessee, Idaho, Kentucky and South Dakota — had tried to rescind their ratification votes in the 1970s.
And they warned that it would result in the expansion of abortion rights.
“This is an open door to abortion on demand with no restriction, no government interference — in fact, government will pay for it,” warned Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee.
Students for Life, which organizes college students around opposition to abortion, also waged a call-in campaign, urging members to lobby their representatives to oppose the amendment.
“The Equal Rights Amendment is nothing to do about equal rights and everything about abortion, that’s why we call it the ‘Everything Related to Abortion’ act,” the group said on its website. “The E.R.A. is simply a Trojan Horse for taxpayer-funded abortion on demand, and abortion advocates are openly admitting it.”
To that, Ms. Pelosi said: “Women should not have the same status of equality as men? This has nothing to do with the abortion issue. That’s an excuse, it’s not a reason.”
The text of the Equal Rights Amendment is 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.” It was first proposed in 1923 by Alice Paul, a leader of the suffrage movement. But it took nearly 50 years for it to pass both houses of Congress.