WASHINGTON, DC — “It was right here in this room that we celebrated the burial of the Equal Rights Amendment,” conservative Phyllis Schlafly, who led the fight against the constitutional amendment in the 1970s, told a cheering crowd in Washington, D.C. on Friday. “We were able to celebrate a tremendous victory against all the powers that be, and of all the things we taught people by defeating the Equal Rights Amendment, it was that conservatives can win.”
Since successfully defeating the ERA in 1982 — a constitutional amendment that she argued would hurt traditional gender roles — Schlafly has continued her anti-feminism, anti-women’s choice messaging. She has remained in the spotlight by making incendiary remarks, like that women should be paid less than men so they can find husbands. And at the conservative conference co-hosted by the Faith & Freedom Coalition and Concerned Women for America this week, her anti-choice rhetoric was echoed by many of the Republican candidates vying for the presidency in 2016.
Many of the candidates who spoke discussed their faith and their traditional family values to justify their anti-choice, anti-equality platforms. Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who declared his candidacy earlier this week, listed off his anti-choice credentials, including the fact that he signed into law a partial-birth abortion ban and pushed through a constitutional amendment requiring that parents be given notice when their minor daughters seek an abortion.
“When I became governor, I was shocked by the total lack of regulation of abortion clinics,” he said. “Parents had no legal role in their minor daughter’s abortion decisions so we put regulations on abortion clinics. And we narrowed the number of them, but we made sure there was reasonable health and safety standards to protect women.”
Studies have shown that abortions are actually extremely safe and that major complications rarely occur. Nonetheless, conservatives have fought for tighter restrictions on abortions by framing the issue around the safety of the procedure. Bush also lent his support as governor to “crisis pregnancy centers,” right-wing organizations often posing as women’s health clinics with an explicit anti-choice agenda that use misleading information and deceptive tactics to try to dissuade women from choosing an abortion.
“At my urging, the state of Florida was the first to sustain funding, $2 million a year, to go to crisis pregnancy centers to provide counseling and therapy — state money going to crisis pregnancy centers to give moms other choices.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who is likely to announce his campaign within the month, also drew loud applause from the conservative audience when he discussed his cuts to Planned Parenthood funding.
“When [the Democratic legislature] sends me Planned Parenthood funding year after year after year and I am the first governor to veto Planned Parenthood funding out of the budget, there is no room for compromise there,” he said.
In 2010, Christie eliminated all family planning funding in New Jersey, cutting off $7.5 million that used to support 58 clinics. The action has had drastic effects on the state and its ability to meet the need for family planning services ever since — nine health centers have been forced to close and impoverished residents have suffered. Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg (D) has accused the governor, who was pro-choice until he said he heard his daughter’s heartbeat on an ultrasound, of trying to drag New Jersey back to the 1950s to pander to the social conservatives who might support a 2016 presidential run.