In 2022, when the U.S. Supreme Court stripped away abortion rights in the Dobbs decision, women — especially younger women — got the message, loud and clear.
Despite warnings from mainstream pundits that outrage over the ruling would fade, voters indeed turned out in force in support of abortion rights — again and again — in the 2022 midterms, in judicial elections and in ballot measure after ballot measure. To date, Kansas, California, Vermont, Montana, Michigan and Kentucky have successfully voted to reject efforts to ban or restrict abortion access — or to ensure the right to abortion in their state’s constitution.
On Nov. 7, Ohioans will join these efforts when they decide the fate of a ballot measure to protect access and reproductive freedom.
As executive editor of Ms. magazine, I have long known the centrality of abortion in U.S. politics. The inaugural issue of Ms. in 1972, for example, featured a group of influential women who signed a petition, “We Have Had Abortions” — at great personal risk, as abortion was outlawed in many states at the time. The Washington Postreported last year that the petition “changed the course of the abortion rights movement.” Its backstory and decades of reporting on abortion are featured in a new anthology, “50 Years of Ms.: The Best of the Pathfinding Magazine that Ignited a Revolution.”
Polling conducted by Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners, commissioned by Ms. and its publisher, the Feminist Majority Foundation, ahead of the 2022 midterms, showed that abortion would remain a top priority for voters. And now, looking ahead to 2024, our latest polling shows that not only will abortion spur strong turnout, but it will be even more impactful when combined with support for the Equal Rights Amendment.
Seven in 10 voters support having the ERA placed in the Constitution — and 74% support a person’s right to make their own reproductive decisions without government interference, including about abortion, contraception and continuing a pregnancy.
With the fight for the ERA now so inextricably connected to the fight for abortion rights, it is critical that advocates and candidates alike be well versed in and able to communicate clearly the status of the ERA and the steps needed to get it over the finish line. The ERA has been ratified, having met the only two requirements for an amendment set out in the Constitution: approval by two-thirds of both houses of Congress (that happened in 1972) and ratification by three-fourths of the state legislatures (the 38th and final state to ratify was Virginia in 2020). But meddling by the Trump Justice Department has delayed its formal recognition.
Legal experts agree that the following three-pronged strategy will achieve its full and final recognition:
- A joint congressional resolution, crafted by constitutional law scholars, to remove the timeline and recognize the ratification of the ERA — House Joint Resolution 25, introduced by Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass. — and Senate Joint Resolution 4 by Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., would accomplish this, bolstered by…
- A separate congressional resolution, called the “ERA Now” resolution, instructing the archivist to publish the ERA as the 28th Amendment. Rep. Cori Bush, D-Mo., co-chair of the Congressional Caucus for the Equal Rights Amendment, and Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., introduced the legislation. Plus…
- A “discharge petition,” which compels the House to vote on H.J. Res. 25 to remove the arbitrary deadline for ratification (under House rules, if a discharge petition to compel a vote on a particular piece of legislation is signed by 218 members, it must immediately be brought before the full chamber for a vote, regardless of any objections or attempts to block the legislation; now that Pressley has filed it, the petition will remain open until it garners the 218 signatures necessary to be called for a vote.)
The overturning of Roe v. Wade was a wake-up call: now that voters have experienced a fundamental freedom being taken away, they want the protection of an amendment to the U.S. Constitution guaranteeing that rights cannot be “denied or abridged on account of sex.”