The PJ Tatler

Kerry Reviving Administration Push for UN Disabilities Treaty

As a senator, John Kerry pushed hard for ratification of a United Nations treaty that didn’t make it through the end of the 112th Congress.

As secretary of State, he’s renewing his push for ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, being considered at the Senate Foreign Relations Committee today.

“The Disabilities Treaty does not contain one single onerous mandate. There are no mandates. It simply says that other countries should do what we did 23 years ago when we set the gold standard and passed the Americans with Disabilities Act. Joining the Treaty won’t require one change to an American law, and it won’t infringe on the rights of parents to decide what’s best for their children. I want to be absolutely clear about that,” Kerry said recently. “Joining the Disabilities Treaty isn’t about changing American behavior. It’s about getting the rest of the world to raise their disability standards for the treatment of people with disabilities–and raise them to our level. It’s that simple.”

Kerry sat down last week with Vice President Joe Biden and senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett to discuss a way to push the treaty forward.

President Obama signed the convention in 2009, sending it to the Senate for ratification where it has remained since. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) told PJM in December that treaty “should be of great concern for conservatives.”

“From American sovereignty, to parental rights, to the lives of the unborn, it could lead to limiting our individual freedoms and expanding the role of government in our lives,” Lee said.

The treaty establishes a new international entity, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, which will consist of a maximum 18 “experts.” Countries will answer to the committee on everything from statistics collection to national implementation and monitoring.

One article in the treaty states that “children with disabilities shall be registered immediately after birth.” Other articles stipulate that the “best interests of the child” as determined by the state should be a primary consideration in all matters concerning the disabled.

The Home School Legal Defense Association put out a call last year for its supporters to vigorously oppose the treaty, saying this language “would override the traditional fundamental right of parents to direct the education and upbringing of their child with special needs.”

Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.), joining with HSLDA, called it “a direct assault on us and our family to hand over to the state the ability to make medical determinations and see what is in the best interest of the child.”

Abortion opponents also point to Article 23, which says, “The rights of persons with disabilities to decide freely and responsibly on the number and spacing of their children and to have access to age-appropriate information, reproductive and family planning education are recognized, and the means necessary to enable them to exercise these rights are provided.”

Signatories of the treaty are required to “provide persons with disabilities with the same range, quality and standard of free or affordable health care and programmes as provided to other persons, including in the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health programmes.”

Last summer, when the treaty was still in the Foreign Relations Committee, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) proposed language saying the treaty “does not create any abortion rights.” Only the committee’s Republicans voted for the amendment, and it failed.

State Department Special Advisor for International Disability Rights Judith Heumann argued today that the treaty “upholds family values, promotes families with disabilities staying together, and protects parental rights.”

“U.S. ratification will protect the authority of parents to raise their children as they see fit, including making their own decisions about education and parental discipline. In particular, the Treaty upholds the ability of parents to homeschool their children with disabilities, and joining this treaty will provide the United States with a platform from which to show other countries how homeschooling can be done effectively,” she said. “Second, the Disabilities Treaty does not change U.S. law regarding abortion. Indeed, many countries that prohibit or restrict abortion have ratified the treaty.”

Heumann added that “U.S. ratification will keep the balance of power between the federal government and the states exactly the same.”