Collins statement on H.J. Res. 79 markup

Rep. Doug Collins (R-Ga.), Ranking Member of the House Judiciary Committee, made the following opening statement at today’s markup of H.J. Res. 79.  Ranking Member Collins said, “The so-called “Equal Rights Amendment” failed to be ratified by three-quarters of the states under a congressionally-mandated deadline. The states relied on that deadline during the ratification debates. That deadline expired in 1979, and Congress lacks any power to retroactively revive a failed constitutional amendment.  The U.S. Supreme Court recognized just that in 1982, when it stated the issue was moot since the deadline for ERA ratification expired before the requisite number of states approved it. The next year the Democratic leadership of the House, acting on the same understanding, started the entire process of ERA approval over again — that new attempt with ERA also failed to achieve the required two-thirds margin on the floor of the House on November 15, 1983. Even current Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a longtime supporter of the ERA, said just a few weeks ago, “I hope someday . . . we’ll be starting over again [on the ERA] collecting the necessary states to ratify it.”  Today, in defiance of historical reality, the chairman of this committee is bringing forward a resolution that denies the obvious. Now that Democrats control the Virginia legislature, the proponents of this joint resolution want to convince their base that, if it’s passed by both houses of Congress — by a simple majority vote — and signed into law, and then Virginia alone passes a resolution to allegedly “ratify” the 1972 ERA, that amendment would become part of the Constitution. Congress, however, doesn’t have the constitutional authority to retroactively revive a failed constitutional amendment and subject citizens in all 50 states to the current political trend in just one state. The Supreme Court has already recognized that. The past Democratic leadership of this House recognized that. Apparently the current leadership on this committee, however, is intent on rewriting history.  If you support the language of the 1972 ERA, you only have one constitutional option: to start the whole process over and make your case to current voters nationwide. You must obtain the required two-thirds vote in each house of Congress, then win ratification individually from 38 states. That is not likely to happen, because it’s well understood that the language used in the ERA would not protect women, but would prevent state voters from enacting any limits on abortion, up to the moment of birth. In recent years, an increasing number of leading pro-abortion advocates have openly argued that the language of the 1972 ERA would require unlimited abortions with no restrictions whatsoever nationwide, regardless of the view of voters. To take just a single example, in a national alert sent out on March 13, 2019, NARAL Pro-Choice America stated flatly, the ERA would reinforce the constitutional right to abortion . . . [it] would require judges to strike down anti-abortion laws.  As more and more people have come to understand, contending an unborn child has no life to lose becomes impossible when we reflect — even momentarily — on what an abortion entails. Fewer and fewer people understand abortion as a victimless choice. We must have compassion and practical support for women who find themselves pregnant under difficult or oppressive circumstances, and we must protect the most defenseless humans among us — those living in the womb. We must also recognize that one person’s reproductive right cannot outweigh another person’s right to live. In 1992’s Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision, the Supreme Court permitted states to regulate abortions in the first trimester or at any stage before fetal viability, provided they don’t impose an undue burden on a woman’s right to an abortion. In 2003, Congress banned partial-birth abortions — which none other than Justice Ginsburg called “brutal.” In 2007, the Supreme Court upheld the federal ban — which applied at any point during pregnancy. Justice Kennedy’s majority opinion noted the law “expresses respect for the dignity of human life” and affirmed the government’s interest in protecting the medical profession’s integrity. He wrote, “the government may use its voice and its regulatory authority to show its profound respect for the life within the woman.”  Mr. Chairman, all that would be swept away if the supporters of this resolution got their way and enshrined in the Constitution the unlimited right to snuff out an unborn child’s life. That is what this is about. I urge all my colleagues to join me in opposing that effort, and this resolution.”