A heated abortion debate in the Senate gives the U.S. just one more reason to oppose the U.N. treaty it is considering on disabilities.
Last week, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in favor of sending the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) to the full Senate for ratification, with three Republicans joining the Democrats in support of the treaty.
While there are many reasons why the U.S. should refrain from joining the CRPD—its threats to U.S. sovereignty, the oversight role of an unaccountable U.N. treaty body, its invocation of disability as an “evolving concept,” and its financial obligations, to name a few—the Senate debate over abortion language is illustrative of its advocates’ ulterior motives.
The Foreign Relations Committee’s business meeting discussion concerning the treaty centered on what reservations, understandings, and declarations (legal addendums the U.S. can make to a treaty to further explain the conditions of its consent) to attach to the CRPD for U.S. ratification, rather than on the wisdom of ratifying it at all.
Here is the abortion conflict: Article 25 of the CRPD instructs countries to “provide persons with disabilities with the same range, quality and standard of free or affordable health care and programmes as provided to other persons, including in the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health programmes.”
Defenders of national sovereignty and pro-life advocates alike can imagine the CRPD committee—tasked with evaluating compliance with the treaty and reviewing country reports every four years—using this language to pressure the U.S. to liberalize its domestic abortion laws or policies governing foreign aid for family planning. In fact, U.N. officials have already pointed to language in the CRPD to build their case for expanding abortion rights under the sexual and reproductive health framework.
In an effort to neutralize such a threat, Senator Marco Rubio (R–FL) offered an amendment to reiterate what has been the position of the U.S. government regarding abortion-related language in U.N. documents:
The United States understands that the phrase “sexual and reproductive health” in Article 25(a) of the Convention does not include abortion, and its use in that Article does not create any abortion rights, cannot be interpreted to constitute support, endorsement, or promotion of abortion, and in no way suggests that abortion should be promoted as a method of family planning.
Nevertheless, after insisting numerous times that the CRPD does not affect any U.S. law concerning abortion, Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman John Kerry (D–MA) subsequently offered a second degree amendment to the Rubio language eliminating the clarification on abortion; the Kerry amendment passed along a straight party-line vote, with all Democrats in favor and all Republicans opposed.
If, as Senators Kerry, Barbara Boxer (D–CA), and Bob Casey (D–PA) repeatedly assured everyone, the language of the CRPD will have no impact on abortion and will not pose any concern to pro-lifers, one can only wonder why the Democrats would all vote to reject the language in the Rubio amendment. (The relevant debate over the reproductive health and abortion language can be seen beginning at the 76:35 mark of this video.)
The full Senate should refuse to ratify the CRPD—thereby protecting disabled Americans and their caregivers from intrusion and regulation by a global committee of so-called experts—and decline to give abortion advocates yet another U.N. document to use in their arsenal.