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Expert Brief

The ERA Campaign and Menstrual Equity

The emerging movement of “menstrual equity” has been largely absent from Equal Rights Amendment discourse, but it will be an invaluable asset in the renewed campaign to ratify the ERA.

Published: October 8, 2019

This expert brief was presen­ted at the Bren­nan Center’s 2018 Equal Rights Amend­ment Symposium with NYU Review of Law & Social Change.

A robust national campaign for the Equal Rights Amend­ment conceded defeat in 1982 when rati­fic­a­tion fell short by three of the 38 states needed to prevail. But in 2017, the Nevada legis­lature cast its vote to ratify the ERA, followed by Illinois in 2018, mark­ing a revival. Now national move­ment lead­ers and legis­lat­ors in several states—not­ably, Arizona, Flor­ida, North Caro­lina, and Virginia — are rally­ing to achieve the 38-state threshold.

Over the nearly four decades in between, of course, much has changed in Amer­ican life and law. The fight for gender equal­ity under the law has made signi­fic­ant head­way — from the evol­u­tion of Four­teenth Amend­ment juris­pru­dence in sex discrim­in­a­tion cases, to advances in employ­ment and economic policies, to the now vibrant and potent era of activ­ism defined by campaigns like #MeToo and #TIMESUP.

Well beyond the symbolic signi­fic­ance of enshrin­ing gender equal­ity in the Consti­tu­tion, there are linger­ing legal and policy inequit­ies the ERA would help rectify — among these, work­place discrim­in­a­tion, includ­ing on account of preg­nancy; paid family leave; and increased protec­tion from viol­ence and harass­ment. Other bene­fits include the abil­ity of Congress to enforce gender equal­ity through legis­la­tion and, more gener­ally, creation of a social frame­work to form­ally acknow­ledge systemic biases that permeate and often limit women’s daily exper­i­ences.

There is one issue, in partic­u­lar—an emer­ging area of U.S. poli­cy­mak­ing —  that falls squarely at the inter­sec­tion of these goals and outcomes, but is largely absent from ERA discourse thus far: menstru­ation and the emer­ging move­ment for “menstrual equity.” This essay describes the progress of that agenda through policy advocacy, litig­a­tion, and social activ­ism, and explains why menstrual equity belongs in discourse about — and will be an invalu­able asset for — the campaign to ratify the ERA.

Read the full essay:

The ERA Campaign and Menstr… by The Bren­nan Center for Justice on Scribd