Friday, April 18, 2008

Fair Pay and the Equal Rights Amendment

On behalf of Blog for Fair Pay Day, I reflected on the considerable resistance to legally prohibiting sexism in the work place. There are several acts and amendments being considered by our legislators, one of which is the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act briefly covered in Lindsay's post.

However, when I was first informed of this "Blog for Fair Pay" event, I did not think of the Fair Pay Act; I did not even know it existed. What immediately came to mind is the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which has been introduced in every session of Congress since 1923. If passed, our 28th Amendment would read:

Section 1. Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article.

Section 3. This amendment shall take effect two years after the date of ratification

Our 110th Congress (2007-2008) has introduced the amendment as S.J. Res. 10 and H.J. Res. 40. Both bills do not include the historical third section.

This amendment, over eighty years in the making, would finally grant women equal rights in all legal matters as guaranteed by the federal government. Currently, various states do grant various legal protections by law, but the fact remains that not only is there no federal amendment barring discrimination by sex and not since 1972 has the amendment passed both houses of Congress.

The federal ERA would prohibit states from restricting state-funded abortions differently from other "medically necessary" procedures sought by men. This interpretation of the ERA was upheld in 1998 when the New Mexico Supreme Court found that the state's ERA required that Medicaid pay for abortions. Justice Minzer ruled:

New Mexico's Equal Rights Amendment requires a searching judicial inquiry to determine whether the Department's rule prohibiting state funding for certain medically necessary abortions denies Medicaid-eligible women equality of rights under law. We conclude from this inquiry that the Department's rule violates New Mexico's Equal Rights Amendment because it results in a program that does not apply the same standard of medical necessity to both men and women, and there is no compelling justification for treating men and women differently with respect to their medical needs in this instance.

Furthermore, opponents have argued that an ERA would require the legal recognition of same-sex marriages because the amendment would prohibit any legislation that bars participation from a legal contract on the basis of gender. Other considerations that have defeated the bill are claims that an ERA would draft women, prohibit same-sex schools, and require that women serve on the front lines of the armed forces.

It is instrumentally important that we urge our legislators to pass the federal ERA, especially if the amendment could finally guarentee women's right to contraceptives and abortion once and for all. Luckily, twenty-one states already have an ERA on the books: Alaska, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, Texas, Utah, Virgina, Washington, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Unfortunately, twenty-nine states, despite attempts, do not have an ERA, including my home-state of lovely Arizona (one of the few states that did not ratify the federal ERA when it passed both houses in 1972).

Today, as we reflect on the necessity of Fair Pay, and our outrage that income is still so variable upon gender and race, we should remember that not only have some legislators curtailed our right to object to unequal pay, they have defeated the ratification of an amendment that would grant us equality under law repeatedly for over six centuries.

Cross-posted at XXBlaze


Goose said...

First off, hi Jen.
Ok, now for some fun

1. How the hell are most abortions medically necessary? I will grant that in some cases it will truly endanger the life of the mother to carry a child. That still does not excuse that she is willing to commit infanticide.

2. What currently prevents women (or their male partner) from buying contraceptives? There are no legal barriers. Oh wait,have the tax payers buy a woman her condom wait, you want to I do not want to fund the personal choice of other people. If they are truly unable to afford any other contraceptive, there is always the only 100% effective option-- Abstinence. Sex is a personal choice, but I don't want to pay for the poor to have it, I already have to pay for their poorly-thought-out brats.

3. Please explain how the ERA would allow women to have abortions. I think that there is already a legal precedent that allows that, Its from a case called Roe vs. Wade. Or are you going back to the socialism again?

4. Women are already allowed to enter into a marriage contracts. In fact, I am just guessing, but I would say that approximately one half of all people who do enter such contracts are women. Men are just as limited in marriage as women. Marriage, as a legal institution, is not discriminatory against women.

I guess that is enough for now.

Jen said...


1. Depends on the definition of "medically necessary". Let's just take out the "infanticide" argument here, because this is a liberal feminist blog and I'm quite sure that we don't agree that point and don't have anything to say to convince each other otherwise. What kind of "medically necessary" are we talking about? Some could say braces, Viagra, and glasses are medically necessary in that they directly improve the quality of life. If so, then most abortions would qualify.

2. I really don't want to touch this point with a very long pole, because it's just not really relevant. Firstly, no amount of abstinence-only education will stop people from having sex. If you really want to say that you don't want to pay for their "poorly-thought out brats", I assume that you'd rather help to fund a ten cent condom.

3. I clearly linked to the New Mexico Supreme Court case that explained how that State's ERA mandated Medicaid paid abortions.

4. I was not talking about marriage as it is discriminatory against women. I was referring to the language of the ERA which would bar any and all discrimination based on sex. Since marriage is a contract guaranteed and respected by federal law, gender could not be a determinant of who is free to enter into that contract. In short, a man and a man could get married simply because it would be illegal to qualify the conditions of marriage based on the "one man and one woman" traditionally definition.

Jezabel said...

Jen -

1. Unless I'm mistaken, Viagra is not covered by insurance. And braces and glasses are not the same as an abortion. True, they improve the quality of life, but abortion is entirely different. What about the quality of life that the child is entitled to? Not to mention - they make condoms, pills, etc for a reason - and now they're free for all (payed for by your taxes) at Planned Parenthood clinics... therefore, unwanted pregnancies can be prevented without killing a child. Or here's an idea - if you don't think you can deal with the consequences of what could happen if you have sex... then just plain don't have sex!

2. You know what happens when people assume....

4. Same sex marriages is something for the churches to decide - it is not a matter for the government.

all american girl said...

Birth control prevents unwatned babies that you anti-baby people seem to feel the need to kill...

Lindsay said...

Actually, Viagra is covered by insurance. It's a bit of a sore spot for lots of people, and with reason. If Bob Dole gets coverage from his insurance company so he can have sex, why can't I have coverage from my insurance company so I can have sex and make sure I don't get pregnant?

ABC: Erections Get Insurance; Why Not the Pill?

NY Times: Insurance for Viagra Spurs Coverage For Birth Control

Jezabel said...

Lindsay - you do have coverage from the insurance so you can have sex and make sure you don't get pregnant. It's called birth control. Pill, shot, patch... it comes in many forms AND is covered by insurance.

Lindsay said...

I'm pretty sure my birth control isn't covered by my insurance... at least when I shell out 30 bucks a month, they're no where to be seen.

Birth control prices have gone up dramatically due to a law passed in 2005.

RHRC: Battling the Birth Control Price Hike

And for me specifically as a Yale student:
Yale Health Services Birth Control Prices Will Increase.

Goose said...

Apparently your school doesn't have this program, but ours does, and I think alot of other schools do as well. If you want to get a condom, all you have to do is go to any RA or go to SPS and ask. Free of Charge. We also have "free condom friday" where SPRUCE sits in the student center with a basket of condoms. Personally, I'm against my student funds being used for it, but the program is there.

Jezabel said...

Also - if your insurance doesn't cover birth control, go to a clinic and let the wonderful tax payers near you pay for it for you.

Lindsay said...

Oh, I've used the free condoms given out by my undergrad, but I feel better if I've got a backup birth control - twice the protection in my opinion.

My point is that some people don't have access to free condoms (the NYC condom project is great - my friend who lives there loves it) and some people don't have the monetary resources to afford birth control every month.

My point is that if Viagra is covered universally by health insurance, then birth control should be as well. Birth control prices shouldn't go up because of a deficit bill, especially for a group of young people who should be doing things like studying instead of getting knocked up. If pro-life people are really so adamant about stopping abortions, they should get behind something that makes birth control accessible to all.