Along with 186 cosponsors, Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) into the 108th Congress yesterday. With the goal of having a vote on the legislation sometime this year, Maloney introduced the ERA in order to launch a renewed effort to secure equal rights for women under the Constitution.
“The ERA is gaining momentum, and 2003 should be its year to come of age. Most Americans believe that the Constitution already makes it clear that men and women are entitled to equal rights, and when they learn it does not, nine out of ten Americans believe it should,” said Congresswoman Maloney in a statement.
The ERA, written by women’s rights pioneer Alice Paul, was introduced in every session of Congress from 1923 until it was approved in 1972. However, in order for the ERA to become the 28th Amendment to the US Constitution it had to then be ratified by 38 states with a ten-year deadline. Eleanor Smeal, president of the Feminist Majority, led the drive to ratify the ERA from 1972-1982. The ERA was ratified in 35 states, just three states short.
“We must keep introducing the ERA until women win equality,” Smeal said. “As the Bush administration continues to turn back the clock on women’s rights, the ERA is needed now more than ever. Without a constitutional guarantee, the progress women have made over the past 30 years is endangered.”
Rep. Maloney’s move to reintroduce the ERA was preceded last week with another bold step forward. On the eve of International Women’s Day, Maloney and Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) announced legislation that would appropriate $134 million – $50 million for 2003 and $84 million for 2004 – to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
Last year, President Bush withdrew $34 million in funds for UNFPA, despite Secretary of State Colin Powell’s earlier endorsement of the agency’s “invaluable work.” The result cut 13 percent of funding for the UNFPA’s international family planning programs, which would have enabled the UNFPA to prevent two million unwanted pregnancies, 4,700 maternal deaths, nearly 60,000 cases of maternal illnesses and over 77,000 cases of infant and child death.