Yesterday, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the U.N.’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD).
As multiple experts—including The Heritage Foundation’s Steven Groves—testified, it is both unnecessary and unwise for the United States to become a party to the Disabilities Convention.
The rights of Americans with disabilities are already protected under a number of federal laws, including the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA), the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 (Section 504), the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act of 1990, and the Fair Housing Act as amended in 1988. Any modification or expansion of such protections can and ought to be achieved through the legislative process.
However, U.S. ratification of the CRPD is more than merely superfluous; the CRPD threatens American sovereignty in a variety of ways.
As with other human rights treaties, the CRPD established a treaty body composed of unelected “experts”—the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities—that evaluates the compliance of state parties to the treaty every four years and issues recommendations for how they might improve in fulfilling their obligations. Too often these U.N. treaty bodies seek to broaden the scope of the treaties that created them, redefining terms and expanding language that had been painstakingly negotiated by the U.N. member states that initially signed onto them—and blatantly disregarding national sovereignty.
Among the most noteworthy of these treaty bodies are the committee that deals with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), and the one that polices states in their compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (CERD).
The U.S. has ratified CERD treaty and has therefore been subjected to browbeating and extreme liberal moralizing on the part of the committee’s so-called experts, whose recommendations have included restoring voting rights to convicted felons and promoting multiculturalism in grade school curriculums.
Thankfully, despite extensive efforts on the part of its advocates, the CEDAW treaty has not been ratified by the U.S. Senate. However, the CEDAW committee’s recommendations to other countries provide ample evidence of the sort of directives it would give to U.S. policymakers should the U.S. ever become a party to CEDAW.
If the U.S. were to ratify the CRPD, U.S. policies would be subjected to the oversight and commentary of the CRPD committee, which could issue unlimited recommendations that the U.S. would be expected to implement. This prospect should be especially concerning to the parents and caregivers of disabled Americans, whose decision making authority would be subjected to the pronouncements of international “experts” and whose rights would be undermined by the CRPD’s language concerning the “best interests of the child” and its lack of explicit protection of parental rights.
Other language in the CRPD is troubling, too, such as its lack of a clear definition of disability, which it defines as “an evolving concept.” Although seemingly beyond the scope of a treaty dealing with rights and protections of the disabled, the CRPD also revisits the recurring and contentious U.N. debates surrounding the definitions of “reproductive health” and “reproductive rights” as they relate to so-called abortion rights.
In spite of specific statements made by CRPD signatories that the inclusion of the phrase “sexual and reproductive health” is not intended to include abortion, U.N. officials and other abortion advocates have pointed to the CRPD to further build their case in favor of abortion as a human right.
The U.S. Senate should decline to ratify the CRPD, as ratifying it would subject the U.S. to untold threats against its sovereignty and invite further intrusion by U.N. officials into sensitive social and domestic policies. If the rights of disabled Americans need further protection or clarification, Congress and state governments should seek remedies through the appropriate legislative processes.