WASHINGTON—Republicans have voted to allow a controversial UN disabilities treaty to the floor of the U.S. Senate, paving the way for an up-or-down vote next Tuesday.
The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) passed by unanimous consent, as 36 GOP lawmakers technically broke a September pledge not to bring any treaty up for ratification during the lame-duck session of Congress. But conservatives are optimistic the 36-member coalition will keep the treaty from attaining the 67 votes needed for ratification.
The Family Research Council, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA), Heritage Action, Let Freedom Ring, Concerned Women for America, the Eagle Forum, and Rick Santorum’s Patriot Voices are all working against the CRPD, which would be the first international treaty to grant rights to a group of people.
Disabilities group Joni and Friends, the organization started by quadriplegic Joni Eareckson Tada, came out against the treaty in mid-November and sparked a petition signed by 9,000 parents of children with disabilities. Joni and Friends said the treaty would help promote the dignity of disabled persons, but the group “holds deep concerns regarding CRPD language on parental rights and the rights of unborn with disabilities.”
Conservatives are contacting several lawmakers who they view as “leaning” on the issue, including Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas), Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.), Dean Heller (R-Nev.), Mike Johanns (R-Neb.), and Thad Cochran (R-Miss.).
Joni and Friends and other opposition groups are also concerned about the treaty’s infringement upon U.S. sovereignty, which would include “unwelcome global regulations,” according to constitutional lawyer and Eagle Forum founder Phyllis Schlafly. “We don’t need a treaty that sets up UN busybodies to assure benefits and protections for persons with disabilities,” she wrote on the Eagle Forum website. “We already treat individuals, able or disabled, rich or poor, better than any other nation.”
Schlafly said feminists hope to expand abortion with the treaty since it guarantees rights in the area of “sexual and reproductive health and population-based health programmes.” The Vatican refused to sign the treaty on the grounds that it would be used to promote abortion. More than 115 countries had already signed the treaty when it passed out of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in July.
Key Republican supporters of the treaty include Sen. John McCain, former President George H.W. Bush, and former Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole. Proponents argue the CRPD would extend the rights of the Americans with Disabilities Act to U.S. citizens traveling abroad.
Michael Farris, founder of the HSLDA and an international law expert, said opposition to the bill doesn’t have anything to do with taking care of the disabled: “We oppose the CRPD for the simple principle that Americans should make the law for America.”