WASHINGTON, D.C. — Coinciding with the U.S. House of Representatives’ vote on the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), Independent Women’s Voice (IWV) will host a national press call featuring statements from House Minority Whip Steve Scalise and several female representatives on the threat that the misnamed ERA poses to women. The ERA would jeopardize women-only spaces, such as battered women’s shelters, prisons, sports teams, dorm rooms, sororities, and more. Adopting the ERA will erase these protections and many others from the law.
Participants on the call include Rep. Steve Scalise, House Minority Whip; Reps. Debbie Lesko (AZ-08); Carol Miller (WV-03); Beth Van Duyne (TX-24); Virginia Foxx (NC-05); and Vicky Hartzler (MO-04). Also joining the call will be Jennifer C. Braceras, director of Independent Women’s Law Center, and Inez Stepman, a senior policy analyst at Independent Women’s Voice.
The call will take place TODAY: Wednesday, March 17th at 5:00 p.m. ET.
Press briefing to discuss the threat of the Equal Rights Amendment.
*This call is on the record and reportable.
Wednesday, March 17, 2021
5:00 p.m. ET
Please join the conference 5 minutes prior to the start time.
You will be asked to provide the conference code.
Dial in information: 800-367-2403
Conference Code: 7051335
- Rep. Steve Scalise (LA-01), House Minority Whip
- Rep. Debbie Lesko (AZ-08)
- Rep. Carol Miller (WV-03)
- Rep. Beth Van Duyne (TX-24)
- Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC-05)
- Rep. Vicky Hartzler (MO-04)
- Jennifer C. Braceras, director of Independent Women’s Law Center
- Inez Stepman, senior policy analyst at Independent Women’s Voice
For more information or to speak with an expert, please contact Meghan Agostinelli at [email protected].
Operator: Good afternoon, and welcome to the Independent Women’s Voice’s: Don’t Erase WomenNational Press Call to discuss the threat that the misnamed ERA poses to women. Today’s call is being recorded. Today’s speakers will take questions from the press at the end of the call. I’d like to introduce Senior Policy Analyst in the Independent Women’s Voice, Inez Stepman. Inez, please go ahead.
Inez Stepman: Thank you operator. Welcome and thank you all for joining this call to discuss the consequences of the Equal Rights Amendment, especially for women and girls. I’m Inez Stepman, as the operator mentioned. I’m a senior policy analyst for the Independent Women’s Voice, where we’ve been working very hard in the last few years to expose those consequences, as calls to revive this dangerous amendment have picked up steam just in the last few years. This afternoon, the House voted, as you’re all probably aware, by a bare majority to dissolve the long-expired deadline on the ERA. While the overwhelming majority of Americans support equality under the law for men and women, which women in 2021 have long enjoyed by the way, the ERA would move us away from that equality and make the law wholly unable to distinguish between the sexes, effectively erasing women from the Constitution of the United States. Women rely on the legal recognition of our biological sex for a lot of our opportunities, for our privacy, and sometimes even for our safety. The ERA would make all women’s programs, sports teams, locker rooms, and even prisons co-ed. There are potentially hundreds of laws that recognize that reality, that while we’re equal, men and women are simply not exactly the same or interchangeable in every possible instance. But worse, when women speak up about the realities of biological sex and how they impact our lives, our well-being or even our security, we’re told that those concerns are a mere cover for bigotry. We’re told basically to shut up. So, we are so, so, grateful to those elected officials who have joined us this evening, and to all of you who have dialed-in for this press call. Now I’d like to turn it over to my colleague Jennifer Braceras, Director of the Independent Women’s Law Center. She’s going to speak briefly to the deep procedural infirmities of this attempt to revive a decades-old amendment and then we’ll be introducing our speakers.
Jennifer Braceras: Thanks, Inez. I just want to say at the outset that when the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced in 1971, women didn’t have all of the same legal rights as men. But today, nearly 50 years later, the world is a completely different place. In 2021, American women and men are legally equal. Indeed, today, I can say with confidence that my daughters enjoy all of the same freedoms and rights as my son. Today, it is clear that the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment prohibits unfair government sex discrimination, and the U.S. Code and the laws of all 50 states are replete with prohibitions on private sex discrimination. In addition to changes in state and federal law, or, some might argue, because of them, America has experienced seismic changes in the economic, educational, and political status of women over the past 50 years. Prior to the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, women were experiencing the lowest unemployment rate in almost 70 years, hold increasing shares of managerial positions, and own 40% of American businesses. These advances are not surprising, given the massive increase in educational attainment of women. In fact, today, on almost every metric of educational attainment, females significantly outperform males. Since the 1970s, we have also seen an increase in the political power of women, who today make up a majority of the electorate. And today, U.S. female elective offices holding is at an all-time high. Men and women who have come of age during this period of significant female advancement might wonder why we need an equal rights amendment today. Many of them assume we already have one, since the equal protection clause prohibits government sex discrimination. 62% of today’s voters were either not yet born or too young to vote, the last time the ERA was considered. And that is why it is illegitimate for Congress to attempt to remove the deadline that it imposed back in the 1970s, and to bootstrap ratifications from last century to a handful of ratifications today and then claim that this amendment is part of the Constitution. Today’s voters must have an opportunity to weigh-in on whether this amendment is necessary, and, on whether the potential costs, as my colleague Inez Stepman touched upon, outweigh the benefits to today’s women. For these reasons, the process must start over from the beginning, and any attempt to repeal the congressional deadline is illegitimate under Article V of the United States Constitution. Thank you.
Inez Stepman: Thank you, Jennifer. It’s now my pleasure to introduce Representative Debbie Lesko of Arizona. Representative Lesko is a co-sponsor of H.R. 426, the Protection of Women and Girls in Sports Act of 2021. That legislation would require that, at least in athletics, sex is determined by a person’s biology at birth, rather than identification. Of course, if the ERA passes, public schools won’t be able to offer single-sex sports at all, making all of that work, and all of the debates that we’re having in our society over how to treat a minority of exceptions, moot, because all sports would have to be co-ed. But we’re very pleased to welcome Debbie Lesko, Representative Lesko. Representative Lesko, take it away.
Representative Debbie Lesko: Well, thank you so much for having me. And thank you for all the great work that you do. I did a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives today opposing, the, you know, getting rid of the deadline for the Equal Rights Amendment. And you are absolutely right. First of all, this is unconstitutional. As you’ve said, the deadline was in 1979. Okay, but only 35 states ratified it then. And so, Congress extended the deadline to 1982 but no other states joined in, thus, the ERA was dead. At least we thought so. But now, the Democrats, of course, are bringing it back up, and trying to get rid of the deadline. Plus, some of those 35 states that originally said that they were for it have rescinded their ratifications. So, I think it’s important to note that even the late Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said that the deadline for the ERA ratification had long passed. And, she had a quote that said, “I would like to see a new beginning. I’d like to see it start over.” There’s too much controversy about the latecomers – Virginia – long after the deadline passed. Plus, a number of states have withdrawn their ratification. So, “if you count a latecomer on the plus side, how can you disregard states that said we’ve changed our minds?” Yet, in addition, as you pointed out, women already have equal rights under the 14th Amendment, and quite frankly, the ERA would be used to codify the right to abortion. And the reason that we know that is because the abortion providers and groups that support the abortion on demand said it. Let me just say a couple of their quotes if we have time. The National Abortion and Reproductive Rights Action League, Narrow, has claimed that, “With its ratification, the ERA would reinforce the constitutional right to abortion.” They also, the National Organization for Women said, “An ERA, properly interpreted, would negate the hundreds of laws that have been passed restricting access to abortion care and contraception.” So, there you got it. I mean, this is the real reason. They say it’s for equal rights for women, but we already have that protection in the 14th Amendment. This is unconstitutional, and quite frankly, it’s all about pushing gender ideology and abortion, and it’s wrong. And that’s why I voted no.
Inez Stepman: Thank you so much, Representative Lesko, for your comments. It’s my pleasure now, to introduce House Minority Whip Steve Scalise. Representative Scalise has made it clear multiple times that House Democrats’ renewed effort to pass this misnamed equal rights amendment aren’t actually about women’s rights, and that American women today are living the freest lives in human history. The ERA won’t add to those protections. It can only take away from them. But thank you so much for joining us, Representative Scalise.
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise: Thank you, Jennifer, for that introduction. And, if you look at the vote that we just had on the House floor, this was the lowest vote total, of the worst vote total that the ERA has had on the house floor in the last 50 years. So, that shows you that support for this bill is declining with a record number of Republican women in the House. You saw a very, very overwhelming vote against this from our side. In fact, if you look at the vote, the ERA came up 62 votes short of the necessary two-thirds vote requirement to change the Constitution. And I know a few of my colleagues mentioned this before, but it can’t be overstated enough that when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, when she was alive, was asked about this attempt to go around the back door to try to bring the ERA, not through a constitutional amendment, but just to try to change the date, that she felt very strongly that that was not constitutional, that you’d actually have to start the process over. And frankly, if the process was started over, we would be pushing to get those strong pro-life protections in law like the Hyde amendment, which have become commonplace over the last few decades, going back to the 1970s, when Henry Hyde started putting the Hyde amendment in place to ensure taxpayer funds aren’t used for abortion. But under the bill, as it’s written, they would gut the pro-life protections and the victories that have been gained over, over decades, including, and I know Debbie Lesko really hit on that hard, in terms of the almost the euphoria that many of the pro-abortion groups have over getting this because they recognize that it would gut so many of the pro-life protections that are important to millions of people across the country. And there are a lot of other problems with this bill, but I think the point’s been made very clear that this isn’t the way to do it. If we’re going to have an honest debate on it, we should be doing in a constitutional way. Not, as Ruth Bader Ginsburg would say, in a process that’s unconstitutional. So, with that, again, I think the fact that this was the lowest and worst vote total that the ERA has had in the last 50 years on the House vote that we had today tells you that support is declining for this kind of failed approach. Thank you.
Inez Stepman: Thank you so much, Representative Scalise. Next, I’d like to introduce Representative Carol Miller of West Virginia. During the debate in 2020 over the ERA, she rightly asked why we’re trying to erase the progress women have already achieved. And we thank her for joining this call right now.
Representative Carol Miller: Thank you, Jennifer, and I want to thank the Independent Women’s Forum for hosting us today. Yes, I am Congresswoman Carol Miller from West Virginia’s 3rd Congressional District, and I am proud to stand alongside with Scalise and my Republican colleague Debbie Lesko in opposition to this unconstitutional and unnecessary piece of legislation that, quite frankly, jeopardizes women and promotes abortion. Even though men and women are created equally, we are definitely not the same. The ERA disregards the unique characteristics of women and girls by eliminating the safe spaces for women and making it impossible for the law to recognize situations where women and girls’ unique needs really do matter. This legislation would also create the basis for taxpayer-funded abortion, as they’ve both said as well, at the federal level, and permanently allow abortion until birth for any reason throughout our nation. While I will always, always welcome a conversation with my colleagues about how we can advance women’s rights and the rights for all people, this is not the way to do it. American women are perfectly capable of advocating for policies that enhance women’s lives without permanently amending the Constitution in a way that would do more harm than good for women. Our daughters and our granddaughters, and I have granddaughters. We can pass good pro-women, pro-family, pro-American legislation through good bipartisan solutions, not by forcing unnecessary liberal messaging bills. Today, sadly, we won’t. And that is what’s so disappointing to me. I want to thank you again for allowing me to speak.
Inez Stepman: Well, we thank you for speaking, and for joining this call. Next up – thank you, Representative Miller. We have, next up, we have Representative Vicky Hartzler of Missouri. Representative Hartzler has been a longtime opponent of the ERA, and she’s argued that it, “would not bring women any more rights than they currently have.” She’s also a co-sponsor of H.R. 426, the aforementioned Protection of Women in Sports Act of 2021. Representative Hartzler, you have the floor.
Representative Vicky Hartzler: Well, thank you so much for hosting this event, and I think my colleagues have done a wonderful job of raising the concerns with this. You know, today is a great day to be a woman in America. We represent 51% of the population, comprise over half of college students, make up a majority of medical and law school students. We run 12.3 million women owned businesses, which generate $1.8 trillion each year, and little girls in America can be whatever they want, whether that’s an astronaut, doctor, full-time mom working at home, or a member of Congress. The ERA is an outdated piece of legislation that won’t add to the rights already guaranteed by the 14th Amendment’s equal protection clause, but it could jeopardize them. And I’m very concerned about how it could jeopardize them. It could make it discriminatory to offer benefits to women not offered to men, such as women’s scholarships, could be on the chopping block, as well as women colleges, job protections for pregnant women, safe spaces. As maybe hasn’t been told yet, the First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, in the early days when this was first proposed, she raised concerns about the negative ramifications for women in the workplace that would be eliminated with the ERA. So, she was very much aware and in tune with the dangers of this. And another concern is certainly the way that the definition of sex be morphed into inclusion for sexual orientation, sexual identity, which will decimate women’s sports as well as other ramifications. I was very involved in sports in high school and was a track coach for seven years when I was a teacher. And this, the idea that biological males identifying as women are going to be able to permanently participate in women’s sports and win the medals and deny girls their opportunity to compete and get scholarships is just abhorrent to me. We cannot allow Title IX to be decimated by passing this. And as was mentioned already, it does legalize abortion and taxpayer-funded abortion. And we know that because New Mexico, who passed a state ERA in their constitution, saw that the court in their state viewed the ERA such that it requires abortions in their state to be paid for by taxpayers. And so, we know the precedent is already set. But, bottom line, we do not need this as American women. We already have rights. And I don’t want the House Democrats to continue to try to use women in order to pass a liberal agenda of abortion and gender identity ideology, and that is what they’re doing. And that’s why I oppose this bill. Thank you.
Inez Stepman: Thank you, Representative Hartzler. Now I’d like to introduce Representative Beth Van Duyne of Texas if she’s on the call. Representative Van Duyne, are you on the call?
Representative Beth Van Duyne: I am on the call. Thank you.
Inez Stepman: Wonderful. I appreciate it. Thank you for doing this.
Representative Beth Van Duyne: Yes, absolutely. No, look, and I appreciate everything that has just been said and agree with everything. You know, the legislation which was considered today on the House floor, it’s redundant and it’s unnecessary. I think the bill’s only purpose really is to provide messaging for Democrats who like to falsely claim that Republicans are against equal rights for women. The debate today is not about equal rights, and those rights are already guaranteed under the 14th Amendment. The Equal Rights Amendment is no longer legally pending before the states, as the congressional deadline passed over 40 years ago. It’s become a publicity stunt for the Left. If enacted, the ERA would have countless unintended consequences by superseding and effectively eliminating statutes designed to protect women, as you’ve heard already on this call. I cannot and I will not support legislation that hinders the progress that women have made in the country. I find the ERA is a weapon that the Left wants to use to paint pro-life laws as anti-women movement. Groups like NARAL, you know, Pro-Choice, and Planned Parenthood have strongly advocated for the adoption of the ERA so they can file lawsuits against states like Texas to eliminate abortion laws and regulations. The amendment would transfer large amounts of legislative power from states to Congress, placing sensitive issues under the much less responsive federal government, as we know now. We should be spending our time serving and striving for a better America, not spending week after week voting on Democrat press releases. As we celebrate Women’s History Month and a historic number of strong, vocal women in the 117th Congress, we also celebrate equal protection of the law, which is already guaranteed through the 14th Amendment. That amendment and the countless other laws that were built upon it has allowed women to make incredible strides. And we do not need this amendment holding us back.
Inez Stepman: Thank you, Representative Van Duyne. Our next speaker is Representative Virginia Foxx of North Carolina. Representative Foxx has spent her career working to advance women’s rights and views the ERA as legislation that would harm, not help women. Welcome Representative Foxx. Is Representative Foxx on the call? All right, we’re going to move on. Thank you. Sorry, we couldn’t hear you Representative Fox. Hopefully, you can join us later. Now I’d like to introduce what may be our final speaker, unless Representative Foxx can join us, Representative Michelle Fischbach of Minnesota.
Representative Michelle Fischbach: Well, hello and thank you so much to the Independent Women’s Forum for including me in the important conversation on the Equal Rights Amendment. It’s incredibly frustrating. The Democrats continue to push through highly partisan, divisive legislation absent of all process and compromise, and today’s ERA resolution was no exception. This unconstitutional resolution does nothing to advance equality, but instead is being used as a vehicle for the far-Left special interest groups and liberal activists to advance their radical policies through the court as they work to enshrine pro-abortion rights to the Constitution. The deadline for states to ratify the ERA has long passed. More than four decades later, Congress does not have the authority to simply extended it. I don’t believe women need a constitutional amendment to tell us we are equal. The Constitution and federal law already provide equal protection for all Americans. Thank you very much.
Representative Virginia Foxx: Hello. This is Virginia Foxx.
Inez Stepman: Hi, Representative Foxx. Thank you so much for joining us, and I know you were delayed on the floor. Please take the floor here and tell us why you oppose the ERA.
Representative Virginia Foxx: Well, thank you very much. You know, as a woman who has worked all her life, and I’m in my seventies now, often in male-dominated professions, I detest and condemn discrimination in any form. And I, like your previous speaker, I find it rather concerning that Democrats are propping up the Equal Rights Amendment as if it were the saving grace that women deserve. What the Left won’t acknowledge is that there’s already legal equality between men and women in America. Whether it’s the 14th Amendment, the 19th Amendment, or federal and state laws, women are already protected from sex discrimination. The Equal Rights Amendment is not a novel idea, nor will it protect women more than they are now under current law. This is, again, just another Left-wing ploy that relies more on an obscure wordsmithing than it does on substance. With such broad language contained in the ERA, the threats to women only multiply on countless fronts. It’s as if the Left is dangling a shiny ball in front of the American people, as they often do on things, and telling them to follow it without considering what’s happening around them. I’m proud to fight alongside Representative Scalise as we bring the truth of the ERA to the American people. I won’t stay silent on this issue because I truly know what’s at stake, and you can count on me. Thank you very much for this opportunity to speak.
Inez Stepman: Well, thank you, Representative Foxx. And, to all of our speakers, we’re so proud here to fight alongside you on this issue. And thank you all for demonstrating so clearly why the ERA will have such an array of negative consequences for women and girls across this country. We’re going to open this call up to questions from the media at this time. So, operator, if you could take it away and let’s let our media friends get in some questions.
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