Maine’s congressional delegation backs effort to spur passage of Equal Rights Amendment

When the ERA failed to gain enough support by one old 1982 deadline, it seemed dead, but it suddenly has life again and may win approval within months.

In a move that may help enact the long-delayed Equal Rights Amendment, which would put women on equal footing in the U.S. Constitution that serves as the bedrock for the nation’s government, all four of Maine’s federal lawmakers support the extension of a deadline for its approval.

No other state’s congressional delegation offers such unanimous and bipartisan support for the measure.

The ERA, which seemed dead decades ago, suddenly has new life as Democrats in Virginia, who captured control of its legislature in this month’s election, vow to push through the proposal in January.

If they do, it would make Virginia the 38th state to endorse the amendment, enough to meet the three-fourths requirement to change the Constitution.

“The question is no longer if, but when. We will ratify the Equal Rights Amendment!” tweeted U.S. Sen. Ben Cardin, a Maryland Democrat who introduced a bill with Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski to try to clear a path for the measure.

It’s not going to be simple, though.

Back in 1972, with U.S. Sen. Margaret Chase Smith, a Maine Republican, supporting the proposal, Congress approved the ERA and its promise that “equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

Congress set a 1979 deadline for the states to endorse it.

In 1978, with the amendment’s momentum stalled, Congress agreed to give the states three more years to ratify it.

“Ten years is a reasonable time for the ERA,” U.S. Sen. Birch Bayh, an Indiana Democrat, said at the time. “This is no ordinary constitutional amendment. We are dealing with the rights of over half the people in the country.”

Dismissing Republican argument that the deadline could not be prolonged once set, Bayh declared, “It has been clear in every court decision and in every action of the U.S. Congress that the Congress has the authority to determine what is a reasonable time for ratification of a constitutional amendment.”

Despite Maine’s 1974 backing of the amendment, it fell just shy of the three-fourths of states needed, seemingly leaving the proposal dead in the water. For more than three decades after its failure, debate over the amendment largely ceased.

Supporters kept introducing new versions of the ERA in Congress without success. Then some backers got the idea of reviving the old push rather than promoting a new one.

As a result, in the last couple of years, Nevada and Illinois approved the 1972 version for the first time, with supporters arguing the time limit was merely verbiage by legislators that ought to count for nothing. Virginia’s almost certain approval when its new legislative session begins in January would, if they’re right, make the ERA the law of the land.

Legal observers are divided about the issue, which would almost certainly wind up in the hands of the federal courts to decide.

Meanwhile, though, lawmakers on Capitol Hill who support the ERA are pushing another angle to help make the ERA law. They want to remove the deadline for its passage entirely.

Most of the Democrats in the U.S. House have signed on as cosponsors of the measure — including U.S. Reps. Chellie Pingree and Jared Golden of Maine — but only a handful of senators have done the same.

U.S. Sens. Susan Collins, a Maine Republican (rape-apologist), and Angus King, a Maine independent (who wants a coin for George H.W. ‘David Cop-a-feel’ Bush), are among the four who have agreed to endorse the Senate’s version of the measure.

U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a New York Democrat and chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said in a prepared statement that his panel plans Wednesday to take action on the proposal to drop the time limits on ERA passage.

“Congress created this deadline and, it is clear, Congress has every authority to remove it now,” Nadler said. “After decades of work by tireless advocates, it is time for Congress to act and clear the way for Virginia, or any other state, to finally ratify the ERA and for discrimination on the basis of sex to be forever barred by the Constitution.”

The House will likely go along with the decision of Nadler’s panel.

What happens in the Senate is less clear, particularly since Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican, has been keeping almost every bill from consideration.

Cardin and U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, an Alaska Republican, are the Senate bill’s chief sponsors, with King and Collins also on board. Senate Democrat is expected to support the bill as well.

Its passage would require more GOP support, but that might be possible. Collins and Murkowski are longtime ERA supporters and firm opponents of the bill are scarce.

“There should never be a time limit to women’s equality,” Murkowski said last summer, according to Maryland Matters, a news site. “So let’s get that out of the way. Let’s move towards full ratification and let’s finish this unfinished business.”

There are a host of legal issues likely to be raised should Congress opt to drop its old 1982 deadline for the ERA’s passage.

One of them arose when five states that approved the amendment soon after its submittal for ratification — Nebraska, Tennessee Idaho, Kentucky, and South Dakota  — voted again before the 1982 deadline to rescind their approval.

Whether they can do that or not has never been resolved by courts. At the time, the only court case pondering the matter was tossed out as moot once the deadline passed without enough states giving the ERA a thumbs up.

However, Congress itself refused to recognize efforts by two states to rescind their backing of the 14th Amendment after the Civil War, a precedent that may matter.

If it does come down to a court fight, there’s at least one justice on the Supreme Court unlikely to shoot down the ERA.

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg once told the National Press Club she would like to see the amendment approved.

Legislation, she said, “can be repealed, it can be altered. So I would like my granddaughters, when they pick up the Constitution, to see that notion — that women and men are persons of equal stature — I’d like them to see that is a basic principle of our society.”

Meghan Murphy: Canadian feminist’s trans talk (“men aren’t women”) sparks uproar

Meghan MurphyMeghan Murphy says she wants to ensure the safety of women

A Canadian library has been criticised for refusing to cancel an event hosting a feminist with controversial views on transgender rights.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside a branch of the Toronto Public Library as writer Meghan Murphy gave a talk inside.

The library defended its decision to allow her talk on gender identity and “society, the law and women”.

Campaigners have called Ms Murphy anti-transgender, which she denies.

Toronto police quoted by Global News said officers had been present inside and outside the event to “keep the peace.”

Global News reporter Kamil Karamali tweeted that attendees were escorted by police out the back of the building when the talk ended.

White space

What is Meghan Murphy’s stance?

Ms Murphy says she wants to ensure the safety of women in places like female prisons, women’s refuges and changing rooms.

In Canada, she has spoken against a bill that amended Canada’s rights act to prohibit discrimination on the basis of gender expression and identity over concerns it could undermine women’s rights by eroding their “safe spaces”.

“Under current trans activist doctrine we’re not allowed to exclude a man from a woman’s space if he says that he’s female and I find that quite dangerous and troubling,” she told the BBC.

She says she believes the transgender activist movement is “regressive and sexist” and ignores women and girls.

The talk’s organisers, a group called Radical Feminists Unite, have said they are “not a hate group, and we do not espouse hate speech, or advocate for the removal of rights from any marginalised group”.

The event was sold out.

Judith Taylor, from University of Toronto’s Women and Gender Studies Institute, calls Ms Murphy “basically a provocateur”.

She thinks that Ms Murphy, in asserting the rights of one group “is implicitly trying to sideline another” and disagrees with Ms Murphy that safe spaces and diversity cannot coexist.

“The more that we start embracing that diversity the better our learning and the better our strength,” she said.

What has the library said?

City librarian Vickery Bowles released a statement in mid-October defending the decision to host the event, saying that as a public institution it has “an obligation to protect free speech”.

She said that while the library supports the LGBT community and can cancel a room rental if it believes “the event will promote discrimination, contempt or hatred for any individual or group” this case does not violate its rental policies.

Toronto Mayor John ToryImage copyrightTORONTO STAR VIA GETTY IMAGES
Image captionToronto Mayor John Tory called the library’s decision “disappointing”

Ms Bowles, who sought legal opinion on the matter, added Ms Murphy has never been charged with or convicted of hate speech in Canada.

The decision to honour the room booking received the support of PEN Canada, a major writers’ organisation, on Monday.

What has been the response?

Opponents to the library’s decision include Toronto Mayor John Tory, who has called it “disappointing”.

An online petition started by three local authors calling for the event to be cancelled had more than 8,000 signatures by Tuesday.

Those who signed it said they would no longer participate in library events if Ms Murphy’s talk went ahead.

Pride Toronto, the organisation behind the city’s annual pride festival, warned the library “there will be consequences to our relationship for this betrayal”.

It said in a statement that Ms Murphy’s views are “a denial of the lives, experiences and identities of trans people”.

A city crosswalk painted in the rainbow colours of the LGBT flag in downtown TorontoImage copyrightLIGHTROCKET VIA GETTY IMAGES
Image captionA city crosswalk painted in the rainbow colours of the LGBT flag in downtown Toronto

Two city councillors – Kristyn Wong-Tam and Mike Layton – are asking for a review of policies governing the use of community spaces at the Toronto library and other public spaces.

Early this year, a similar talk that included Ms Murphy at a public library in Vancouver drew both protesters and a sold-out crowd. The library was later barred from participating in the city’s pride parade.

In May, Ms Murphy was invited to the Scottish Parliament to speak on transgender issues as Edinburgh planned reforms to the Gender Recognition Act to allow people to “self-declare” their legally recognised gender.

Campaigners at the time said Ms Murphy wanted transgender equality protections “ripped apart”.

She was also banned from Twitter for stating that “men aren’t women” and for “misgendering” transgender women on the site. She has taken legal action against the company.

Meet The Alabama Doctor Who Could Face 99 Years In Prison For Providing Abortions Under New Law

Alabama Governor Kay Ivey signed the nation’s most restrictive abortion ban into law on Wednesday, effectively banning the procedure except in cases where a pregnant person’s life is at serious risk. The law does not make exceptions in cases of rape or incest and doctors could face 99 years in prison for performing abortions. We speak with Dr. Yashica Robinson, the medical director of the Alabama Women’s Center for Reproductive Alternatives, one of only three clinics left in the state that offer patients abortion services. She is one of only two abortion providers living and working in Alabama. Under the new Alabama law, she could spend the rest of her life in prison for doing her job.

Trump to bar abortion referrals by family planning clinics

Reproductive rights groups decry Trump’s latest announcement, saying it further restricts women’s rights.

Protesters on both sides of the abortion issue gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, during the March for Life [Susan Walsh/AP Photo]
Protesters on both sides of the abortion issue gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, Friday, Jan. 19, 2018, during the March for Life [Susan Walsh/AP Photo]

The Trump administration says it will prohibit taxpayer-funded family planning clinics from referring women for abortions, a move likely to be challenged in court by abortion rights supporters.

The administration’s plan would also prohibit family planning clinics from being housed in the same location as abortion providers.

The policy released Friday by the Health and Human Services Department (HHS) pleased religious conservatives, a key building block of President Donald Trump‘s political base.

Meanwhile, Planned Parenthood has said the administration appears to be targeting them, and called the policy a “gag rule”.

“The implications of the Trump-Pence administration’s attack on Title X with a gag rule are staggering,” tweeted Leana Wen, Planned Parenthood’s president.

“It compromises the oath I took to serve my patiens and help them make the best decisions about their health,” she added, using #NoGagRule.

The final regulation was published Friday on an HHS website but would not be official until it appears in the Federal Register.

The department said there could be “minor editorial changes” to the regulations while a department official confirmed to the Associated Press it was the final version.

Known as Title X, the family-planning programme serves about four million women annually through independent clinics, many operated by Planned Parenthood affiliates.

The grant programme costs taxpayers about $260m a year.

One year under Trump: ‘An assault on women’s health’

Abortion is a legal medical procedure in the US, but federal laws prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to pay for abortions except in cases of rape, incest or to save the life of a woman.

Restricting women

Friday’s announcement was the latest move by President Donald Trump to restrict women’s reproductive rights.

Reproductive rights groups say Trump has waged a war against them, employing policies that have harmed women’s right to choose.

Since taking office, Trump has reinstated and expanded the Global Gag Rule, which bans international organisations that receive US funding from providing abortion services or offering information about the procedure.

Trump has also appointed well-known anti-abortion rights activists to key posts within federal departments dealing with women’s health.

Last month, a US judge in California blocked a Trump administration birth control coverage rules, which would allow more employers to opt out of providing women with no-cost birth control, from taking effect in 13 states and Washington, DC.

“It’s 2019, yet the Trump Administration is still trying to roll back women’s rights,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said following the ruling. “Our coalition will continue to fight to ensure women have access to the reproductive healthcare they are guaranteed under the law,” he added.


Judge blocks Trump birth control coverage rules in 13 states, DC

But Friday’s announcement was praised by abortion opponents.

“We are celebrating the newly finalized Title X rules that will redirect some taxpayer resources away from abortion vendors,” Kristan Hawkins, president of Students for Life of America, said in a statement.

Although federal family planning funds by law cannot be used to pay for abortions, religious conservatives have long argued that the programme indirectly subsidises Planned Parenthood.

A group representing family planning clinics decried the administration’s decision.

“This rule intentionally strikes at the heart of the patient-provider relationship, inserting political ideology into a family planning visit, which will frustrate and ultimately discourage patients from seeking the healthcare they need,” Clare Coleman, head of the National Family Planning & Reproductive Health Association, said in a statement.

Supreme Court blocks Louisiana abortion clinic regulations

Chief Justice Roberts joins court’s four liberals to block Louisiana from enforcing law, pending full review of the case

Protesters on both sides of the abortion issue gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC during the 2018 March for Life [Susan Walsh/AP Photo]
Protesters on both sides of the abortion issue gather outside the Supreme Court in Washington, DC during the 2018 March for Life [Susan Walsh/AP Photo]

A divided Supreme Court stopped Louisiana from enforcing new regulations on abortion clinics in a test of the conservative court’s views on abortionrights.

The justices said in a 5-4 decision late Thursday that they will not allow the state to put into effect a law that requires abortion providers to have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals.

Chief Justice John Roberts joined the court’s four liberals in putting a hold on the law, pending a full review of the case.

President Donald Trump‘s two Supreme Court appointees, Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, were among the four conservative members of the court who would have allowed the law to take effect.

Kavanaugh wrote a dissenting opinion in which he said the court’s action was premature because the state had made clear it would allow abortion providers an additional 45 days to obtain admitting privileges before it started enforcing the law.

If the doctors succeed, they can continue performing abortions, he said. If they fail, they could return to court, Kavanaugh said.

The law is very similar to a Texas measure the justices struck down three years ago. Roberts dissented in that case.


American women’s right to choose is in danger

Ashley Andreou,Alexander Urry
by Ashley Andreou,Alexander Urry

But the composition of the court has changed since then, with Kavanaugh replacing Justice Anthony Kennedy, who voted to strike down the Texas law.

Restrictions would close clinics, providers say

Louisiana abortion providers and a district judge who initially heard the case said one or maybe two of the state’s three abortion clinics would have to close under the new law. There would be at most two doctors who could meet its requirements, they said.

But the federal appeals court in New Orleans rejected those claims, doubting that any clinics would have to close and said the doctors had not tried hard enough to establish relationships with local hospitals.

In January, the full appeals court voted 9-6 not to get involved in the case, setting up the Supreme Court appeal.

The law had been scheduled to take effect Monday, but Justice Samuel Alito delayed the effective date at least through Thursday to give the justices more time.

The justices could decide this spring whether to add the case, June Medical Services v Gee, to their calendar for the term that begins in October.

‘Pro-life’ justices

Trump had pledged during the campaign to appoint “pro-life” justices – judges who are opposed to abortion rights – and abortion opponents are hoping the more conservative bench will be more open to upholding abortion restrictions.


Under Trump, states step up effort to restrict abortion access

In his State of the Union address on Tuesday, Trump called for legislation to limit what he and anti-abortion rights activists describe as “late-term abortion”.

While such legislation at the federal level is unlikely, research at the Guttmacher Institute shows that about 20 states already have laws in place that restricts abortion after about 20 weeks post-fertilisation.

Since Trump came to power, a number of states have also introduced measures that seek to restrict abortion access.

Other states, including New York, have passed laws to ensure that abortion access would still be protected if the Supreme Court were to overturn parts or all of Roe v Wade, a 1973 decision that blocks states from prohibiting abortion.

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In Rebuke of Trump, Democratic Women Help Seize House & 7 Governorships in Historic Midterm


In a historic midterm election, Democrats have seized control of the House of Representatives, flipping more than two dozen seats. This gives Democrats subpoena power for the first time since President Donald Trump was elected two years ago. While the Democrats will control the House, the Republicans picked up two more seats in the Senate. The midterms were a groundbreaking election for women. At least 100 women will serve in the U.S. House for the first time in U.S. history, including the first two Native American women and the first two Muslim women.

South Portland lawmaker Scott Hamann interviewed by Secret Service for anti-Trump rant on Facebook! Right on, Scott!

U.S. Secret Service agents met with a Democratic lawmaker from South Portland who posted a Facebook rant against President Trump that included a threat against the president, the lawmaker said Friday.

Rep. Scott Hamann said he met with agents Thursday at his home.

But Hamann, who said he has received hundreds of threatening calls, is still facing blowback from the post, which he has since deleted.

On Friday, House Speaker Sara Gideon, D-Freeport, said Hamann had been kicked off two legislative committees on which he served: Health and Human Services and the Marijuana Legalization Committee.

In a statement Friday, Gideon said the repercussions for Hamann should send a signal to other lawmakers that such comments will be met with swift action. Gideon notified Hamann of her decision Thursday evening, she said.

In the Facebook post, Hamann criticized Trump on several fronts, particularly his treatment of women, and wrote, “Trump is a half term president, at most, especially if I ever get within 10 feet of that (vulgar term).”