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Why Women’s Equality Day Was Different This Year

Activists and politicians used August 26th to combat Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court

DENVER, CO - AUGUST 26: Claire Caruana holds up a sign during a rally to protest President Donald Trump's supreme court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh at Civic Center Park on August 26, 2018, in Denver, Colorado. The rally was organized by Unite for Justice.(Photo by Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

Claire Caruana holds up a sign during a rally to protest President Trump's supreme court justice nominee Brett Kavanaugh at Civic Center Park on August 26th, 2018, in Denver, Colorado.

Helen H. Richardson/The Denver Post/Getty

It took 42 years for the United States to ratify the 19th Amendment, enshrining a woman’s right to vote. Between the time it was first introduced to Congress in 1878 and when it actually became law in 1920, the Panama Canal was built, nine states joined the union and World War I occurred.

But if that seems like a long time, consider this: It’s been 46 years since the introduction of the Equal Rights Amendment, which, to this day, remains one state short of the required three-quarters majority needed for ratification.

If passed, the ERA would finally guarantee women equal rights with men.

In the 1970s, when the fight over the ERA was still fresh, New York Congresswoman Bella Azbug wrote a bill declaring August 26th Women’s Equality Day. This year on August 26th, women and their allies around the country used the occasion to protest President Trump’s nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court.

Kavanaugh has indicated in rulings and past remarks that he believes Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided. Kavanaugh has assured pro-choice Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) that Roe is “settled law.” But that’s little comfort for women whose reproductive freedom is at stake, particularly when considering the fact that President Trump has loudly declared he would appoint judges who would overturn the ruling protecting abortion.   

At protests in New York, Los Angeles and dozens of other cities and towns across the country, women spoke out forcefully in defense of reproductive rights. They were cheered on by lawmakers like Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), who tweeted, “With a SCOTUS nominee threatening to undo decades of progress and do away with some of our most fundamental rights, the need to continue the movement that won us the right to vote 80 years ago could not be clearer or more pressing.” She was joined by Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), who tweeted, “.@realDonaldTrump has said women should face ‘punishment’ for exercising their constitutional right to abortion. Now, with Kavanaugh’s nomination, this nightmare could become a reality. On #WomensEqualityDay & every day we must #StopKavanaugh & protect women’s right to choose!”

A number of rumored 2020 presidential hopefuls chimed in as well.

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) chided the GOP for scheduling nomination hearings nearly two months months ahead of the date the National Archives said Kavanaugh’s documents would be ready for release. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) tweeted Saturday, “I won’t let Kavanaugh overturn Roe v. Wade and undermine every step we’ve taken toward equality in this country. I’ve been fighting his confirmation from day one, and I’m not going to let up. But neither can you. I need you to stay strong, stay determined and keep fighting.”

Trump antagonist and Stormy Daniels lawyer Michael Avenatti also chimed in, tweeting, “The Equal Rights Amendment has been in limbo far too long. It is frankly shocking that it has yet to be ratified after all of these years. The time has come to change this. Women deserve equal rights across the board, especially equal pay! #Basta”

The president did not acknowledge the day on his own Twitter feed.

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