Following up on yesterday’s post, I think it’s a good time to advocate (as so many others have before) a constitutional amendment to protect women against discrimination. At the urging of Maine representative Diane Russell, I just signed a petition to urge President Obama to support the Equal Rights Amendment.
Why do we need this amendment? If it’s not already obvious, especially after this week’s alarming SCOTUS decision on Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby, here’s a few facts: As conservative justice Antonin Scalia acknowledged back in 2011, the Constitution does not prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex. Some people believe the 14th Amendment does this adequately, but it has never been interpreted that way and, in fact, does not offer sufficient protection.
While Scalia and others believe that laws can be made to offer the necessary protection against discrimination, it is equally true that laws can prevent such protection from happening, and they can be overturned. That is precisely what has been happening for the past several decades with women’s reproductive rights. The decision on Burwell vs. Hobby Lobby is simply another example of that, because it allows specific discrimination on the basis of privileging the “personhood” of a corporation over that of women.
As I wrote yesterday (and as many others have written), even if women are still able to obtain birth control given that the decision applies to only two forms (the IUD and emergency contraception), the decision sets an alarming precedent by allowing discrimination specifically against women, based on a corporation’s religious beliefs.
The fact is, as Martha Burk points out, “none of the rights women have––except the right to vote––are enshrined in the Constitution.” That means that states can overturn any laws guaranteeing equal opportunity for women in jobs, education––whatever the majority wants. The current, aggressive assault on women’s reproductive rights shows exactly how that can and is happening.