Our legislative process is messy and I couldn’t explain why this is so important in one short paragraph. Read on to understand…
So many Americans are enthusiastically sharing WHY we need to protect the legal right to abortion, and the stories are heart-rending but they are not changing any minds, just reconfirming the necessity of safe, legal access to all forms of reproductive medical care (including abortion!) to those who are committed to it.
Right now, what we need to know is WHAT WE CAN DO to protect the legal right to abortion, and how to act QUICKLY as more women are already dying each and every day. Many people are saying vote, vote, vote and ABSOLUTELY you should be registered and prepared to vote in every election at every level of government, but the midterms are months away, our hands are going to go numb sitting on them that long and disenfranchisement is very, very real.
We need an action that each and every one of us can take RIGHT NOW to participate in our democratic process and make the voice of the people heard. Yes, right now, this very minute and, because I can feel your dread rising, it is NOT sending money to any politician or organization, and it is completely legal for every single person in this country –– it’s actually encouraged!
You need to write a letter to your senator. Or call or tweet at or engage your senator in whatever way you feel most comfortable expressing yourself. Spell it out on the top of cupcakes or knit it onto an afghan, if that feels right.
You need to contact your senator and ask them to bring Senate Joint Resolution 1 (S.J.Res.1) to the floor for a vote in the Senate. And you need to do it today. You need to do it right now.
“Wait, wait…what the heck is S.J.Res.1? That name looks like a COVID variant!” It’s not. It’s a bill up for consideration in the Senate and is so short that the easiest way to explain it is just to stick the text of the bill right here:
Removing the deadline for the ratification of the equal rights amendment.
Resolved by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That notwithstanding any time limit contained in House Joint Resolution 208, 92nd Congress, as agreed to in the Senate on March 22, 1972, the article of amendment proposed to the States in that joint resolution shall be valid to all intents and purposes as part of the Constitution whenever ratified by the legislatures of three-fourths of the several States.
https://www.congress.gov/bill/117th-congress/senate-joint-resolution/1/text <- this link consolidates every bit of information on this bill that Congress has
“Uuuuuuuuuuugghhn.” you say, “The ERA? Isn’t that a pretty dead horse??”
It’s really, REALLY not dead.
More importantly, unlike a Supreme Court decision, which as we all have just seen, can be overturned at any time, what is needed to protect the right to abortion is to codify it into our body of federal law. And the Equal Rights Amendment is the OG legislation written to do precisely that. (It does other stuff too, but the right to abortion has always been a pretty critical component.)
“Okay, but isn’t getting the ERA finally into the Constitution a lot of work?? Why is this one bill (S.J.Res.1) focusing on a weird technicality even important??”
So, it turns out that while none of us were paying attention, the ERA kept moving forward. It passed in the House in 1970. It passed in the Senate in 1972. Then it went to the states for ratification. It needed 38 states to ratify it. The 38th state, Virginia, ratified it in 2020, 41 years after the time limit expired…
…and there’s no law that says that an amendment must pass within any reasonable amount of time or that Congress can’t pass another law to remove the time limit.
After a while, Congress got into the habit of making resolutions (bills) on the ERA in every session as a symbolic gesture. At the start of the current congressional session (the 117th Congress), two bi-partisan bills with identical language were introduced into the House and Senate respectively: House Joint Resolution 17 (H.J.Res.17) and S.J.Res.1. On March, 17, 2021, H.J.Res.17 passed the House (222-204). S.J.Res.1 was referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee the day it was introduced and has sat there ever since. To move forward to a vote on the Senate floor, it needs to be recommended for a vote by the Senate Judiciary Committee. S.J.Res.1 is bi-partisan, and currently, the bill has 51 co-sponsors, 2 of them Republicans. Passing S.J.Res.1 is the last step to making the ERA officially the 28th Amendment of the United States Constitution.
Most bills die in committee.
Every other path to federal legislation protecting the right to abortion has a vastly more barriers to overcome and innumerable more steps ahead to becoming a law. Getting the Senate to vote on S.J.Res.1 actually has a real chance of making a difference, of restoring rights to women and individuals of all gender identities within our Constitution. We HAVE to try.
Write to your senator about S.J.Res.1. If you are not in a state with a senator on the Senate Judiciary Committee, consider writing to your senator AND to one of the senators on the Judiciary Committee.
Here is a list of who they are with links to each of their official websites where you can submit comments directly to them:
Here is language you can use in your comments and letters if you don’t have the time or energy to write something yourself or can use any part of as a starting point to communicate YOUR opinion on this issue:
I’m a constituent of the state of . With the current overturn of Roe v. Wade, now more than ever the United States of America needs the Equal Rights Amendment. Currently, S.J.Res.1, which revokes the 7 year limit on the amendment’s original ratification in the 1970s, is being held in the Senate Judiciary Committee. As the equivalent House bill, H.J.Res.17 has already passed in the House of Representatives, S.J.Res.1 only requires a vote in the Senate before the ERA could officially become the 28th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.
(As you sit on the Senate Judiciary Committee), I wanted to ask you what the current status of S.J.Res.1 is and what is being done to advance it toward a Senate vote.
Thank you for your time on this important issue.
Finally, I leave you with two things –– Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s thoughts on the importance of ERA and abortion rights and Schoolhouse Rock’s “I’m Just a Bill”, which explains perfectly the democratic legislative process and how we, as individuals within the United States, can participate!
(see the YouTube box)