On July 30, 2009 the United States became the 142nd country to sign the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Susan Rice, the United States’ ambassador to the United Nations, signed the document in New York at the UN headquarters, fulfilling a commitment that President Obama had made earlier in the month. President Obama had indicated at the Americans with Disabilities Act 19th anniversary celebration, that the United States would sign the Disabilities Convention. This treaty will now go to the United States Senate for advise and consent, and if 2/3 of the Senate votes in favor, it will then be presented back to President Obama for ratification. If the treaty is ratified, the Untied States will be legally bound by its provisions.
The following information is taken from the UN website.
What is the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities?
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is an international treaty that identifies the rights of persons with disabilities as well as the obligations on States parties to the Convention to promote, protect and ensure those rights. The Convention also establishes two implementation mechanisms: the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, established to monitor implementation, and the Conference of States Parties, established to consider matters regarding implementation.
States negotiated the Convention with the participation of civil society organizations, national human rights institutions and inter-governmental organizations. The United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on 13 December 2006 and it was opened for signature on 30 March 2007. States that ratify the Convention are legally bound to respect the standards in the Convention. For other States, the Convention represents an international standard that they should endeavor to respect.
What is the Optional Protocol to the Convention?
The Optional Protocol is also an international treaty. The Optional Protocol establishes two procedures aimed at strengthening the implementation and monitoring of the Convention. The first is an individual communications procedure allowing individuals to bring petitions to the Committee claiming breaches of their rights; the second is an inquiry procedure giving the Committee authority to undertake inquiries of grave or systematic violations of the Convention.
What is the signature of the Convention?
The first step in becoming a party to the Convention is signing the treaty. States and regional integration organizations (RIO) may sign the Convention or Optional Protocol. A State or RIO may sign the Convention at any time. By signing the Convention or Optional Protocol, States or RIOs indicate their intention to take steps to be bound by the treaty at a later date. Signing also creates an obligation, in the period between signing and ratification, to refrain from acts that would defeat the object and purpose of the treaty.
What is ratification?
The next step in becoming a party to the Convention or Optional Protocol is ratification. Ratification is a concrete action taken by States which signals the intention to undertake legal rights and obligations contained in the Convention or the Optional Protocol. Regional integration organizations express their consent to be bound by the Convention or Optional Protocol through “formal confirmation” – an act which has the same effect as ratification.”
Current position of Untied States
The Untied States has now taken the first step in becoming a party to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities by signing the document. The next step will be ratification. The ratification process begins when President Obama submits the treaty to the Senate for advice and consent, as set forth in the United States Constitution. Article II, section 2, of the Constitution states that the president “shall have Power, by and with the Advice and Consent of the Senate, to make Treaties, provided two-thirds of the Senators present concur.” If President Obama receives 2/3 of the Senate vote in favor of the Disabilities Treaty, he will ratify it and it will become binding law for the United States.
Contents of the Disabilities Treaty
When Ambassador Rice signed the Disabilities Treaty on July 30, she touted it as the “first new human rights convention of the 21st century adopted by the United Nations.” She went on to say that it “. . . further advances the human rights of the 650 million people with disabilities worldwide. It urges equal protection and equal benefits under the law for all citizens, it rejects discrimination in all its forms, and calls for the full participation and inclusion in society of all persons with disabilities.”
Some of the “rights” advanced by the Convention include:
Right to quality and standard health care . . . including in the area of sexual and reproductive health (Article 25)
Right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity on an equal basis with others (article 17)
Freedom of movement and nationality (article 18)
Right to live in the community (article 19)
Right to education (article 24)
Right to work (article 27)
Right to adequate standard of living (article 28)
Right to participate in political and public life (article 29)
Right to participation in cultural life (article 30)
Areas of Concern – Disabilities Treaty
While the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities contains many important provisions for individuals with disabilities, it also raises some disturbing questions about abortion, national sovereignty, and the future of other “human rights” treaties.
The language in Article 25 of the Convention has raised concern among pro-life advocates because this is the first legally binding treaty to contain words easily construed as including abortion. The specific language reads:
(a) Provide persons with disabilities with the same range, quality and
standard of free or affordable health care and programs as provided to other persons, including in the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health programs;
The words “sexual and reproductive health” in this section could be used to promote abortion, although documents indicate this was not the intention of the negotiating parties at the time the convention was adopted. In fact, 15 nations issued statements in the UN General Assembly at that time interpreting “sexual and reproductive health” specifically as excluding abortion. Pro-life advocates still worry, however, that over time, these official statements will be forgotten and a new interpretation that includes abortion will be accepted. Comments such as those by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to the House Foreign Affairs Committee only serve to heighten the fears of pro-life advocates. She told the Committee that the Obama administration interprets the term “reproductive health” as including abortion.
Another area of concern with regard to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is national sovereignty. This Convention and others like it give authority to UN committees and governing bodies to oversee the implementation of Convention provisions. This authority could come in conflict with laws and policies of the United States, if those laws and policies are not in line with a ratified UN treaty. The fear is that a UN committee could override the laws of the United States and in essence take away the voice of the American people in governing their own nation.
The Obama Administration will no doubt be advocating strongly for the Senate to ratify the Disabilities Treaty. Unfortunately, this may only be the beginning of the Administration’s efforts to gain the Senate’s approval of other highly controversial “human rights” treaties. Chief among those that Obama has said he would try to get approval for are CEDAW (Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women) and CRC (Convention on the Rights of the Child). Both of these treaties have provisions that raise issues related to reproductive rights (abortion), rights of parents in raising children, and national sovereignty.
What Can We Do?
At this time, the Senate will be faced with tremendous pressure to ratify the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Depending on what happens with this treaty, there may also be pressure put on the Senators to accept other treaties that expand “human rights” through the United Nations. You can stay informed about the progress of these treaties and let your Senators know about your concerns regarding provisions that encourage abortion and threaten national sovereignty.
Contact YOUR Senators TODAY and let them know your concerns regarding the disabilities treaty. Find their contact information by clicking here!
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