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Joni Eareckson Tada
Joni and Friends
Joni Eareckson Tada

Disabilities group opposes UN treaty

Congress | Joni and Friends has concerns about the treaty’s effect on parental rights, the rights of the unborn with disabilities, and U.S. sovereignty

WASHINGTON—Joni and Friends, the organization started by quadriplegic Joni Eareckson Tada, announced this week it is opposed to a United Nations disabilities treaty up for ratification in the U.S. Senate.

Joni and Friends released a statement saying although the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) could provide some benefits, including promoting the human dignity of people with disabilities, the drawbacks outweigh the reward: “Joni and Friends holds deep concerns regarding CRPD language on parental rights and the rights of the unborn with disabilities. We are also concerned how U.S. ratification of this treaty would impact U.S. sovereignty.”

Conservatives on Capitol Hill have voiced similar concerns, but the CRPD passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, 13-6, in July with the support of 10 Democrats and three Republicans. The treaty has already been ratified by more than 115 countries and attracted support from prominent Republicans such as Sen. John McCain and former President George H.W. Bush. Proponents say it would give American citizens more rights when traveling abroad.

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In September, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., tried to ratify the treaty by a voice vote late one afternoon, but Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, produced a letter from 36 senators pledging not to consider any treaty until the 113th Congress is seated in January. The move dealt a temporary deathblow to the treaty because ratification requires two-thirds approval (67 votes) in the Senate. As of this week, the coalition vowing to delay the vote is still holding strong.

The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) also opposes the treaty as an infringement on U.S. sovereignty and parental rights. Since the Constitution guarantees Senate ratification of a treaty makes it the “supreme law of the land,” HSLDA is concerned the CRPD would lead to unelected bureaucrats making decisions about “the best interest of the child.”

Among other issues conservatives have with the treaty, it includes the phrase “sexual and reproductive health,” language that some claim includes the right to an abortion. The Vatican has already refused to sign the treaty on the grounds that it may be used to promote abortion.

The statement from Joni and Friends said Americans who want to help those with disabilities should focus on enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act and “investing in those global initiatives which provide spiritual and practical help” to disabled persons.

Tada started Joni and Friends in 1979 as a Christian outreach ministry to the disabled community. She was injured in a diving accident in 1967 and is one of the longest surviving quadriplegics on record at age 63.

J.C. Derrick
J.C. Derrick

J.C. is a reporter in WORLD's Washington Bureau. He spent 10 years covering sports, higher education, and politics for the Longview News-Journal and other newspapers in Texas before joining WORLD in 2012. Follow J.C. on Twitter @jcderrick1.

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