After the U.S. Senate defeat of ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities I received several expressions of concern about the arguments made against it. I did some research, including interviewing David Morrissey (www.usicd.org), and promised myself that I would write a blog when another ratification vote neared. That time has come.
A campaign of misinformation brought about the defeat of the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) in the U.S. Senate last December. Likely, a motion to ratify it will be brought to the Senate Foreign Relations committee this June. Now is the time to begin contacting Senators to correct that misinformation so the next vote to ratify will be successful.
As an example of this misinformation, last November Joni and Friends (JAF) issued a statement that it “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.” JAF gave no rationale for these concerns.
I have great respect for JAF and the work they do, but these errors need to be corrected. I’ll take them in order:
Ratification of the CRPD would not change U.S. law but would confirm our commitment to disability rights and allow the U.S. to impact disability rights globally. No changes to U.S. laws covering parental rights would result from ratification. Children would still be allowed to be homeschooled. Parental discipline would still be guided by local laws. In fact, the treaty supports people with disabilities and their right to live in the community among family, and it protects parents and children from separation on the basis of disability. With the U.S. Federalist system of government, states are not under the order of an international body. The Federal government engages in international treaties, and parental rights are part of states' legal frameworks and fully protected by the ratification package.
Rights of the Unborn
I deplore the fact that many children are aborted including a disproportionate number of children with disabilities. The treaty would not change that for the better or worse. The CRPD states that people with disabilities should have the same access to health care as people without disabilities. It emphasizes non-discrimination on the basis of disability, with no change in law or policy.
All human rights treaties passed by the U.S. Senate include RUD (Reservations, Understandings and Declarations), legally binding conditions added to treaties to protect U.S. sovereignty. After the Obama administration pledged that they would pursue ratification, the treaty and domestic law were compared. Last May, this results of this investigation were sent from the White House to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. U.S. sovereignty has not been affected by previous treaties ratified by the Senate. U.S. sovereignty would not be impacted by ratifying this treaty either. In fact, the U.S. is in compliance with this treaty already. The ratification package that the Senate had before them required no changes to U.S. law. That package even defined disability as ADA defines it. In a July hearing in the Senate a declaration was added declaring that the U.S. is already in compliance.
Sadly, the misinformation has obscured the benefits to ratification which include
Gives voice to the cry of people who are objects of discrimination. Typically, people with disabilities are the poorest and most oppressed in any community throughout the world. Their unemployment and poverty rates are the highest. People with disabilities across borders wrote the CRPD. For this reason, it has passionate support with most of the disability community. Not only that, over 500 organizations representing veterans and veterans with disabilities, civil rights groups, human rights groups, religious groups, even the national Chamber of Commerce, are among many others supporting the CRPD.
Gives U.S. citizens a seat at the table. The UN does not own the agreement, but the parties who ratify it own the agreement. If U.S. ratifies it, then the U.S. can have a seat at the table of the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD). They are not a law-making body, but make recommendations to countries regarding accessibility and implementation of the treaty. People who get seats are not government people, but regular citizens. With U.S. ratification, U.S. disability leaders can be at the UNCRPD table with international brothers and sisters.
Reengages the U.S. as a world leader in disability rights. With the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the U.S. was a pioneering country on disability rights, but the U.S. is falling behind. Passage of the CRPD would allow us to engage directly with many other countries that have already ratified it.
Provides additional protections for U.S. citizens with disabilities when traveling abroad. In many countries, accessibility and disability rights are far less than in the U.S. Ratifying the treaty will allow the U.S. to engage with other countries that have already ratified the CRPD to encourage them to stand by the treaty.
What can you do?
U.S. Representatives do not engage in international treaty ratification, only senators. Engage your senators, especially the 38 senators who voted against ratification in December - names listed below, by making calls, visiting your senators’ offices (either in the Senate or in their local offices), sending emails, and talking to the press in your state. You can find your Senators' contact information at www.senate.gov. Many senators are telling people that they have not decided yet about the CRPD. Continue to contact them until they make a decision.