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“Wait a minute, you mean we can still do that?” Ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment

Theresa M. Rohr-Kirchgraber, MD

Theresa M. Rohr-Kirchgraber, MD

In an interview with The New York Times, Carol Robles-Roman, the co-president of the ERA Coalition – and a lawyer – said, “Wait a minute, you mean we can still do that?” when told about the extraordinary action of a woman state senator, Senator Pat Spearman, who in 2017 decided to bring forth a bill to ratify the ERA decades after the ratification deadline. Recognizing the need for women’s equality to be written into the constitution, Illinois signed on in 2018 and Virginia came close to being the 38th state in 2019 losing by only 1 vote.

While the ERA would not guarantee equal pay in the private sector, only for federal employees what the ERA *would* do is make it harder and protect against presidential administrations that would strip away Acts or Executive Orders that provide for equal pay.

First passed in 1972 by Congress, the ERA had been dormant until 2017. North Carolina has agreed to bring the ERA into consideration for a vote and if it passes they will be the needed 38th state. Though the deadline of 1982 has passed, it is possible the deadline can be extended again. Nearly 50 years after the ERA passed Congress, it may soon be written into the Constitution.

Women in medicine still have a wage gap. The report, contributed by our faculty Bobbie Byrnes, MD
Gender Discrepancies Related to Pediatrician Work-Life Balance and Household Responsibilities.
Starmer AJ, Frintner MP, Matos K, Somberg C, Freed G, Byrne BJ. Pediatrics. 2019 Oct;144(4) again noted the wage gap for pediatricians. Even when up to 70% of practicing pediatricians are women, the wage gap of ~$8,000 per year exists.

It is hard to understand what our younger generation feels about the ERA. They may wonder what all the fuss is about or if it is still needed, but with study after studying documenting the difference in wages, with Equal Pay Day stretching into April each year, there is still a need for the ERA and may 2020 be the year that it finally is ratified!

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.

Theresa Rohr-Kirchgraber