E.R.A. sorely needed: Men discussing cuts to
contraception, pregnancy coverage

If ever there was an image to make women cringe, it’s this one. If ever there was an image to convince women in America that we need the Equal Rights Amendment, it’s this image proudly sent out on Twitter by the White House. The photo shows Vice President Mike Pence meeting with the House Freedom Caucus, in a session closed to the press, to hash out cuts in the American Health Care Act stripping essential insurance coverage for women’s health care.

In the earliest days of the Trump White House, an image was Tweeted of Donald Trump signing a global gag rule that would pull U.S. aid from organizations that counsel women about abortion rights. 

That’s in direct conflict with the United Nations Human Rights Commission that states access to safe, legal abortion is a basic human right. But the president of the United States has determined women, including women in some of the poorest regions of the world, do not merit being informed about their basic human rights.

The UN language is clear:

“Criminalization of abortion and failure to provide adequate access to services for termination of an unwanted pregnancy are forms of discrimination based on sex. Restrictive legislation which denies access to safe abortion is one of most damaging ways of instrumentalizing women’s bodies and a grave violation of women’s human rights. The consequences for women are severe, with women sometimes paying with their lives.”

“While slavery has now been abolished, there is still a long way to go before the bodies and wombs of women around the world will stop being instrumentalized in the name of patriarchal morals or traditions and for political, economic or cultural purposes.”

We need the Equal Rights Amendment.

Now that Nevada passed the amendment, Illinois and Virginia are viewed as the final swing states that would provide the required 38 state approval to make the E.R.A. the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Although the deadline for approval has passed, there is precedent enabling Congress to extend the deadline.

“We still need the E.R.A. All the rights we’ve gained through the decades are not guaranteed. They can all be rolled back. There is no guarantee women must be treated equally,” said Michelle Fadeley, vice president of communications for Illinois NOW.

“With an administration like Trump’s, there is the threat progress could take a backward turn.”

She said the E.R.A. “codifies women as a group. Without it, all gains can be repealed.”

Fadeley said the United States is one of the few countries in the United Nations that has failed to pass the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). The United States shares that dubious distinction with Sudan and Iran.

She believes passage of the E.R.A. will pave the way for a U.S. vote for CEDAW.

Brittany Miller, a member of Peoria NOW, said, “Latent and overt sexism were evident in this past election. If there is a silver lining, it’s that millions of women are becoming active.”

She said those who fear the E.R.A. will strip away their rights fail to understand the concept of basic human rights is universal.

“Rights are not a finite resource. My rights do not mean you have fewer rights. It means all our rights are more secure. It’s better for all,” she said.

If you think the E.R.A. is old-hat-1970s, think of the vulgarity and sexism of this past presidential election and push back. Illinois Sen. Heather Steans is chief sponsor for the amendment in Springfield. She has said, “From equal pay to equal health care access to fair treatment on college campuses, women’s rights are at risk as long as they are not protected in the Constitution.”

Now Trump has cleared the way for states to strip federal funding from Planned Parenthood. (Clare Howard)

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