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State senators plan meeting on ERA Amendment concerns

Tom Byrne
Delaware Public Media

Some state senators say they hope a meeting between Democrats and Republicans can defuse concerns about passing a state Equal Rights Amendment.

The meeting comes after legislation adding language to the state’s Constitution barring discrimination based on sex failed in the state Senate Wednesday.

The vote largely fell along party lines after Republican State Sen. Anthony Delcollo proposed amendments to it. Delcollo points to a 1998 New Mexico Supreme Court ruling as a concern that an ERA amendment could lead to state-funded abortions.

But Democratic State Sen. Stephanie Hansen said that ruling wouldn’t apply to Delaware unless the state expanded abortion coverage for low-income women beyond the cases of rape, incest and life of the mother.

“So to say somehow that at this point in time if we pass an Equal Rights Amendment, that’s going to lead to coverage of abortion outside of what the Hyde Amendment says is a nonstarter," she said. "It’s not an issue.”

Only one Republican senator voted for the ERA Amendment after Democrats voted down Delcollo’s proposals. Constitutional changes require a two-third vote in each chamber in two consecutive General Assembly sessions.

Delcollo said he believes senators can reach a compromise.

“I believe we’re going to come together," he said. "I’m not saying that the language on what I introduced will be the same certainly. But I think we’re going to be able to come together and understand some of those concerns and get it done.”

Hansen said she hopes the meeting will be productive, but doesn’t believe the amendments are necessary.

Delaware Law School Dean Rod Smolla told senators Wednesday the amendments were unnecessary. The First Amendment scholar and author said he doesn’t believe there’s a secret agenda the amendments need to address.

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