Policy Briefs

Equal Rights

September 1992

This November the voters of Iowa will be called upon to approve or disapprove an amendment to the Constitution which is generally known as the Equal Rights Amendment.

The effort to assure equal rights for women is a worthy endeavor, which we support. Our support grows from our Scriptural understanding of the dignity of each human person, our Church tradition of upholding this dignity and our knowledge of the concrete obstacles women face in society.

The proposed amendment to our State Constitution, however, raises a dilemma as to how it will be interpreted in the courts in future years, specifically regarding the protection of the unborn. We must ask whether the wording of this proposed amendment, while providing for equal rights for women, would unfortunately violate the right to life for the unborn.

The proposed amendment does two things: First, it amends Article I, Section 1, of the State Constitution by adding after the word “men”, the words “and women”, stating that there are “certain inalienable rights–among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty…..” We support what this language change attempts to do.

The concern comes from the second change which adds the following language: “Neither the State nor any of its political subdivisions shall, on the basis of gender, deny or restrict the equality of rights under the law.” We are advised that the additional language could be interpreted by the courts as guaranteeing women a certain medical procedure (i.e., abortion), thus violating the right to life of the unborn..

It is unfortunate that this particular Constitutional amendment was designed in such a way as to run the risk of promoting the right to an abortion. It is possible to amend our state Constitution in such a way as to provide for equal rights, yet not endanger the lives of our unborn children. We would strongly support such efforts.

The Iowa Catholic Conference has prepared an information packet which contains the language of the proposed Iowa Equal Rights Amendment, as well as recent statements from the United States Catholic Conference on protecting human rights, especially the rights of unborn children. The information packet also contains a legal analysis of the amendment and is available from each diocese or the Iowa Catholic Conference.

We urge the citizens of Iowa to seek information on the Iowa Equal Rights Amendment and become informed on this issue before they cast their ballots in November.

September 1992