US Experts Testify on Dangers of Disabilities Treaty

By Lisa Correnti

(WASHINGTON, DC – C-FAM) A panel of experts warned U.S. lawmakers this week that the UN Disabilities treaty could threaten the rights of parents and advance abortion rights.

“This treaty… would allow unelected bureaucrats in Switzerland to determine the meaning of the words ‘disability’ and ‘sexual reproductive health,’ said Congressman Jeff Duncan following a briefing to the House Sovereignty Caucus. “Such ambiguity could lead to frivolous litigation and advancing abortion as a ‘human right.’”

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) passed the Senate Foreign Affairs subcommittee in July. An amendment by Senator Marco Rubio clarifying that the treaty cannot be used to advance abortion was supported by all Republicans senators but was defeated when all Democratic senators voted against it.

Dr. Susan Yoshihara explained to the Caucus how “sexual and reproductive health” was inserted in the treaty despite a lack of consensus. The Director of the International Organizations Research Group at C-FAM participated in the UN negotiations on CRPD.

“In order to get this term into the Disabilities Treaty, proponents had to circumvent the objections of 23 nations, resorting to such tactics as secret meetings and venues where not all delegations were allowed” she said.

Some U.S. senators support the treaty on the belief that pro-life protections exist since the term “reproductive health” is mentioned as a category of non-discrimination and not as a right. Dr. Yoshihara cautioned against this false sense of security.

“This should not allay the fears of pro-life lawmakers or make them think that this treaty will not be used to advance a right to abortion,” she said. “The Women’s Convention, CEDAW, never mentions abortion or ‘reproductive health’ nor does ICCPR [International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights], but their committees have pressured more than 90 countries over 120 times to liberalize abortion.”

Treaty proponents say “reservations” agreed to by the U.S. Senate will protect against any problems. The experts, however, called reservations inadequate. Dr. Yoshihara recalled a U.S. Supreme Court decision (Roper) in which the court “cited a portion of the ICCPR that the United States had specifically rejected in a reservation.”

Michael Farris, chairman of the Home School Legal Defense Association, warned that the CRPD threatens the rights of parents of special needs children. “Government agents, and not parents, are being given the authority to decide all educational and treatment issues for disabled children.”

“Signing the treaty is an empty gesture” said Steven Groves with the Heritage Foundation. “Current U.S. law meets or exceeds the provisions of the Convention, and mere membership in the Convention will not convince the international community that America protects the rights of its disabled citizens,” he continued.

Concerns about the CRPD were expressed by the Holy See delegation when the UN adopted it in 2006. Explaining why they could not support it, the delegation stated, “It is surely tragic that…the same Convention created to protect persons with disabilities from all discrimination in the exercise of their rights, may be used to deny the very basic right to life of disabled unborn persons.”

The U.S. does not need to ratify the treaty to gain moral authority, noted Rep. Duncan and his co-chair of the Sovereignty Caucus Rep. Doug Lamborn. “America is already one of the world’s leaders in advancing the cause of those with disabilities,” said Lamborn.

Resistance to the treaty is growing. A letter from congressmen urging senators to reject the CRPD now has 49 signatures.

Lisa Correnti is Director of Operations at C-FAM. Her article first appeared in the Friday Fax, an internet report published weekly by C-FAM (Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute), a New York and Washington DC-based research institute (http://www.c-fam.org/).

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