America Needs an Equal Rights Amendment
The landmark ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has come as stunning to both pro-life and pro-choice advocates in the abortion debate. The ruling overturns a 50-year precedent affording women federal protection while in pursuit of abortion services. But alongside that ruling came something else — something insidious foreshadowing the direction of the conservative United States Supreme Court.
Today’s concurring opinion from Justice Clarence Thomas telegraphs a full-throated intent by conservatives to reverse precedence in a number of cases that came before the SCOTUS. The reversal on so many matters that expanded rights for our fellow Americans would, in effect, mean that America’s freest period would have only been an anomalous, sixty year blip.
In this country, strangely enough, there is no Equal Rights Amendment. As wise as the framers of our Constitution were, they never explicitly wrote about gender, race, disabilities, or any other social constructs in the original Bill of Rights, and since then, legislators have been tepid about expanding rights via constitutional amendments during their own times in office. For example, it took more than 80 years for my own forefathers to be counted as whole individuals, rather than as 3/5 of a person — and another 97 years for their right to vote to be protected by federal law (which, mind you, is being gutted now). So, yes, our lawmakers crawl slowly to effect change for the benefit of the citizenry.
This time, though, slow and steady must give way to the swift and certain. Today, whether you are for or against abortion, we all must take heed of the broader legal mechanics of this day — how the rights of Americans were rolled backwards. Before today, this has only happened twice in our history — at the establishment of segregation and with the enactment of Prohibition. But Justice Thomas seems to think the Supreme Court should go even further. And that means the only way to combat him is with the ratification of a comprehensive Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution.
The Court used selective interpretations of the law to invalidate due process and equal protection by the Federal government, calling it an overreach, where Constitutional edicts or specific federal laws did not actually prescribe such efforts. According to Thomas, as it pertains to issues before the Court, without specific language to offer a path to due process or equal protection, the Court is obliged to strike them down, too. In fact, Thomas called many of these expansive rulings “errors”, while today’s majority opinion claims to only apply to the case at hand. Nonetheless, it would be foolish to discount Thomas’s threat. It must be met with the blunt and certain force of a new constitutional amendment upon which he can choke.
An Equal Rights Amendment to the Constitution is the only way to ensure that those rights are protected. We cannot entrust the protection of our civil liberties to a Court seething with partisanship and egomaniacal beliefs. They cannot be entrusted to a President with no real power to protect the people. No, this is a colossal job for Congress — but not an insurmountable one. And we must mobilize now, and press them to take action. There is no better day than to launch such an effort for an Equal Rights Amendment. Had it been law sooner, today would not have happened, but if it is not law soon enough, there is no telling what else they will come after.