Women, 12-year-olds need Equal Rights Amendment to survive the next 50 years
A few days ago, my hometown newspaper, the Laurel (Mississippi) Leader-Call published an op-ed I wrote about the Equal Rights Amendment and abortion rights in the deepest of the Deep South states. New Yorkers may take an interest given that a Mississippi lawsuit led to the SCOTUS reversal of Roe v Wade, something that the vast majority of New Yorkers oppose.
Mississippi also anchored the 20th century conservative movement that elected New Yorkers’ own homeboy, Queen’s native Donald Trump, with the help of Southern evangelicals and Armageddon-fearing Christians, recently featured in the Mississippi Free Press. Since the time of Ronald Reagan, one of his and Mississippi’s top political strategists, former Governor Haley Barbour, helped develop the Southern strategy back in the 80s that turned the South red, expanded conservatism up North and into the mid-West and ultimately elected the democracy-hating Donald Trump.
If asked, Barbour would never accept such criticism but in truth he, along with the late Lee Atwater of South Carolina and Massachusetts’s Ed Rollins, lit a fire that will be hard to extinguish in the coming decades.
As a woman, I worry most about the Roe reversal and demand we put women and girls back into the Constitution through the passage of the long-ignored Equal Rights Amendment.
When the leader of Mississippi lawmakers believes any pregnant 12-year-old girl, who also is a victim of incest, should not have an abortion, it’s time to find another leader – without what House Speaker Phil Gunn called his “personal belief” about underage girls and pregnancies.
When the Governor of Mississippi says rape and incest pregnancies is nothing but a “distraction” by liberals (like me) because the numbers are “small, minor,” it’s time to find another governor who knows how to count with meaning.
This is my belief. In 2020, more than 1,148 women and girls reported rapes in Mississippi. Unlike Governor Tate Reeves, most women would be very distracted, even if only one woman or girl reports a rape.
The reasons to support abortion rights for an underage girl are endless. She’s only 12. She could die having the baby. The birth could kill the child or both the mother and child. Her father, brother, uncle, cousin or other relative raped her. The rape itself would change her life immediately, with or without counseling. Would the father of the child be convicted of rape? Would he go to jail? How would he earn money? Who pays for the child’s needs? What if the family is poor? The wealthy will find a way to have an abortion in another state, but not the poor.
Reeves and Gunn’s unethical, immoral and twisted reasoning means the two of them don’t have the emotional, physical and mental intelligence to serve the state and, more importantly, the women who live in it. I don’t live in Mississippi, but I own property, with my brother, and I visit him and the house I grew up in on a regular basis. I want my niece and nephew and their children to have the same rights I had growing up in Jones County. Pro-choice rights. Privacy rights. Rights of equality. Life in Mississippi didn’t always produce the rights, but in Supreme Court rulings I had them and I fought to keep them.
Supporting pro-choice means supporting the right for a pregnant girl or woman to decide whether to have an abortion or not. Pro-choice doesn’t mean a woman or girl must have an abortion. A rape isn’t a choice. A pregnancy isn’t always a choice. An abortion is never forced but always should be a decision made by the woman and, in the State of Mississippi, a girl’s choice with her parent’s consent – not Gunn’s or Reeves’ or any other man or woman in government.
Supporting pro-choice also means supporting a woman’s privacy and equality. The women and men who fought for Roe v Wade did so in the context of ensuring a woman her privacy and her equality in all walks of life: at work, at home, in school, in college, in sports, and the list goes on.
Much progress has been made since the seventies, but now it has come to a complete stop in Mississippi and in many other neighboring states.
A few days ago, Reeves said, “This entire court battle was never about winning a court case; it was always about creating a culture of life, and that’s exactly what we are doing here in Mississippi…. We have to prove that being pro-life is not simply about being anti-abortion, and, in our state, we are enacting policies to do exactly that.”
What is “that”? Is “that” banning contraception? Is “that” providing financial assistance to women who can’t get pregnant and want to try through the miracles of expensive medical procedures? Is it banning gay marriage? Is it keeping women out of good-paying jobs to ensure they stay home fulltime with the family? Is it figuring out how to get all that Medicaid funding back into the pockets of single women with children with no or low-paying jobs?
Reeves is right. The battle is definitely not just about abortion. It’s really a battle about equality.
This is why women need the Equal Rights Amendment in the U.S. Constitution and in state constitutions.
Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito said in his opinion nowhere in the Constitution are women considered “persons”. Surely Reeves and Gunn don’t think women are non-persons, do they? But Alito and the other conservative justices must. The word “women” is not used in the 14th Amendment, they say. We do have the right to vote. It’s the 19th Amendment. Maybe “that” is on Reeves’ list, too. Maybe women can no longer vote, if they are caught having an abortion and thrown in jail. Or a doctor, man or woman providing the abortion, is thrown in jail and her/his vote taken away.
The ERA will end the fight over not only Roe v Wade, but also Title IX, which bars anyone from being “excluded…or subjected to discrimination” in federally funded programs, anywhere, not just in sport. It’s not being enforced.
The ERA will abolish the Supreme Court decision on Roe v Wade with strong, explicit language on equality. We won’t need Title IX. The entire human race would become fully equal citizens before the law.
Both Houses of Congress passed, and 38 states ratified the ERA, but the Trump Administration blocked it in 2020. The U.S. House of Representatives has passed twice a bipartisan joint resolution declaring the ERA validly ratified but, not surprisingly, Republicans filibustered to block equality rights in the Senate. To overcome the filibuster, Democrats must either convince 10 Republicans to vote to end the filibuster or carve out an exception to the filibuster rule for the ERA.
President Biden is fighting for a carve-out to codify Roe v Wade but codifying a fundamental right into a legislative statute debases the right and will only apply to federal funds. Choice, privacy and equality must be rooted in constitutional protection. Otherwise, leaders like Reeves and Gunn will come after our rights, again and again.
Before we know it, a 12-year-old girl, who is also a victim of incest, is forced to have a baby, based on Gunn’s personal belief and Reeves’ new culture of life.
Karen Hinton is author of Penis Politics: A. Memoir of Women, Men & Power.