Stoking Fire: Right Rejects Disabilities Treaty on Grounds It Threatens Anti-Choice Movement

This summer, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Palau, and Singapore ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), bringing to 133 the number of nations that have voted to support the treaty since 2007.

Addressing the world’s 650 million people with disabilities, the convention is the UN’s first human rights proposal of the 21st century. According to its preamble, it “recognizes the inherent dignity and worth and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice, and peace in the world.” Furthermore, it opposes discrimination in all areas—education, employment, and the home, among them—and pledges to protect people with disabilities from “torture, cruel, inhumane, or degrading treatment or punishment.” Lastly, it bars medical or scientific experiments on human subjects with disabilities without their informed consent.

Alas, U.S. lawmakers are not clamoring to pass the measure. In fact, many conservatives are working overtime to make sure that the convention remains stalled in the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and does not see the light of day in the remaining months of this year’s legislative session. Particularly disappointing to supporters is the fact that although President Obama signed the treaty in 2009, a December 2012 Senate vote failed to get the necessary two-thirds majority required for ratification.

If you’re wondering why the right is rejecting a treaty that has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people around the world, look no further than the tried-and-true political bugaboos that typically invigorate religious conservatives and reactionaries: women’s reproductive health and the perceived weakening of parental rights and U.S. primacy. According to a blog post on the website for PolitiChicks, an online talk show started by Saturday Night Live alum turned Tea Party activist Victoria Jackson, “This treaty enshrines abortion rights, homosexual rights, and demands the complete disarmament of all people. … This treaty gives the ultimate authority to determine if a child with special needs will be home schooled, attend a private school, or be required to accept the program offered by the public school.”

How it does these things is never explained.

PolitiChicks has yet another objection to the CRPD: Since Article 15 of the treaty rejects the use of corporal punishment, the blog post argues that it “means that spanking will be banned entirely in the United States.”, an anti-choice website, makes no mention of homosexuality, disarmament, or the spanking of unruly offspring in its critique of the CRPD. Nonetheless, its contributors agree that the convention poses a threat to the anti-choice cause—a “hidden abortion agenda,” according to the headline. As they see it, a provision mandating that “persons with disabilities be provided with the same range, quality, and standard of free or affordable healthcare and programs as provided to other persons, including the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based health programmes” (emphasis added by LifeNews) will push the world’s nations to legalize abortion. Closer to home, they believe the treaty will provide a tool that the pro-choice community could use if the Supreme Court overturns Roe v. Wade. The upshot, they conclude, “is that a treaty aimed at securing the recognition of the dignity of some [people with disabilities] puts at jeopardy the dignity of others [fetuses].”

Additional anti-convention activists, including Sens. Ted Cruz (R-TX), Mike Lee (R-UT), Rand Paul (R-KY), and Pat Toomey (R-PA), alongside the Heritage Foundation and the Home School Legal Defense Association, further object to the convention’s requirement that countries report back to the United Nations every four years on their progress in eradicating discrimination against people with disabilities, charging that it will undermine U.S. sovereignty, and give too much power to unelected UN bureaucrats.

Predictably, CRPD supporters—a wide array of international groups, including the Arab Organization of Disabled People, the World Blind Union, the European Disability Forum, and hundreds of local and national disability rights organizations in the United States—are exasperated by the Senate’s intransigence in ratifying the CRPD. Mark Perriello, president and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities, calls the right’s invocation of abortion, parental authority, and sovereignty “absurd” and “not grounded in reality.” “It’s partisan politics,” he told RH Reality Check. “We met with Secretary of State [John] Kerry on July 30th and he underscored the White House commitment to the treaty. Right now, more than 600 organizations around the country are working to build the support we need from the Senate. Traditionally, disability issues have been non-partisan, but the ball is in the Republican’s court to prove that this is still true.”

Robert Schoenfeld, an executive board member of Disabled in Action, is similarly adamant that “the convention has nothing to do with parental rights or abortion.”

“As a matter of fact, it just brings up standards for the rest of the world so that they are near to what we have here under the Americans With Disabilities Act, signed by President [George H.W.] Bush in 1990, and that guarantees that people with disabilities have the same rights to participate in everyday life as everyone else,” he said.

And contrary to PolitiChicks and LifeNews’ assertions, Carmen Gloria Arriagada, the International Council of Women’s permanent representative to the United Nations, says that the convention “simply works to strengthen the rights of people who need access to education, health care, and the workplace.”

“The right wing is manipulating information to stir up opposition” and shift attention away from the many problems facing disabled women, men, and children throughout the world, she said.

Arriagada notes that CRPD opponents would better serve people with disabilities by calling attention to the fact that the global literacy rate for adults with disabilities is 3 percent, and that approximately 90 percent of children with disabilities in so-called developing countries never attend school. In addition, individuals with disabilities are more likely to be victims of violence or rape and are less likely than their non-disabled peers to receive help from law enforcement or social services. Indeed, despite PolitiChicks’ fear that parents will be restrained from spanking their kids, the reality, says Arriagada, is that violence against children with disabilities is virtually endemic.

Even more sobering, while the United States is seen by much of the world as a leader on disability rights, 23 years after the passage of the Americans With Disabilities Act by Congress, only 35 percent of U.S. adults with disabilities are employed, and 10.8 percent continue to live in dire poverty.

If a treaty can raise consciousness and kick-start even modest improvements, doesn’t it make sense to pass it?

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  • cjvg

    So basically what the so called “pro-life” faction is saying here is that all persons should only have their “personhood” rights enshrined in law from conception to birth.
    After birth the so-called “pro-life” faction does not give a flying f*ck if these born persons have their “personhood” sanctified and guaranteed by a specific law doing so.

    After birth these “pro-life” factions will not champion a law promoting that people (who are now undeniable an aware sentient person who can feel pain and mental anguish) will not get abused, medically experimented on without their knowledge or consent, or if women and little girls will not be forced to risk their live and/or mental health because they have to carry unwanted or risky pregnancy to term, or that the precious disabled babies will have a chance to fully participate in society, etc etc.

    This makes it very clear that respect for life has absolutely nothing to do with their anti-choice stances. However it does make it abundantly clear why they feel so comfortable denying basic human rights to ownership of ones own body to any person who happens to be born with a womb.

    • HeilMary1

      Looks like my hateful anti-choice parents were following a global RCC/Nazi GOP pattern of denying basic health, education and protection from bullying and medical trafficking for a detested disabled family member because they got holy orgasms from inflicting more misery.

      And Victoria Jackson supports corporal punishment of the disabled! How is this torture better than abortion?!

      I told the mother of my now dead disabled neighbor that the RCC/GOP would rather her son (and all other useless eaters) be denied life-saving health care just to prevent any woman from even being in the same room with birth control pills. She agreed.

      These fetal idolaters couldn’t be any more monstrous. And they wonder why we hate them.

      • phillip howel

        You hate because you choose to hate. I cannot make you hate or love only you can make that choice.

        • Arekushieru

          You hate women because you choose to hate women. I cannot make you hate or love women only you can make that choice.


          • phillip howel

            And you know I “hate women” based on….?

          • Arekushieru

            Because you deny them the same right to bodily autonomy that everyone else has, on sexist grounds. (If you don’t even know what that means, let me clarify for ya: it means that you use sexist grounds to deny women the same rights that everyone else has, which is misogyny, which equals… hating women.) Do I get the prize, now, do I, huh, huh, huh???

          • HeilMary1

            LOL! You nailed this creep!

          • phillip howel

            And how do you know I hate women?

          • Arekushieru

            Please, learn to read.

    • phillip howel

      Where do you get your know-nothing “facts” from? You have NO idea of the work done by people who do reach out and help PWD’s. Have you ever helped a disabled person—beyond holding a door for someone? Ever provided respite care, volunteered in a hospital or nursing home? Tell us about the help you give.

      Many organizations have a specific mission: Planned Parenthood’s is to perform abortions; that is how they earned their $300+ million dollar profit. They do not do adoptions, perform mammograms, help the disabled, help the woman who is emotionally shattered by her abortion…. Right to Life groups focus on a specific area that allows them to help. Some work with adoption, others helping the pregnant woman, the new mom of a born child with financial support, provide parenting classes, help getting resources all at no cost to the woman or the taxpayers. Caring for the disabled is very specialized work that requires multidisciplinary training due to the various needs.

      I suggest you look at all who help with objectivity and interest in what they do. Learn truth.

      • h

        What a load of lies and nonsense. Please – go ahead and show one damn fact in what you just posted. Planned parenthood’s mission is reproductive health and general access medicine. The rest you posted is just hogwash. Please stop with the lie after lie!

        • phillip howel

          NOT ONE Planned Parenthood facility provides general access medicine nor do the provide prenatal or postpartum medical services. Just read their information. Planned performs 300,000+ abortion every year according to their publications. Try reading their information for truth.

      • cjvg

        “Right” to life?!, that is all you “volunteer” for?!

        The only organization you mention is the egregiously misnamed “right to life”

        Nothing that in actuality helps the disabled!, only one that feels women are in no way able or competent to understand what pregnancy and childbirth means!

        So you “volunteer” to help an organization who wants to force women to carry pregnancies they do not want to term regardless of what the women themselves want, because you know better then the women who have to live with the financial, emotional, physical and social consequences.

        That sir, is called self aggrandization, you are in no way more competent or better equipped to make those decisions for a woman then she is!
        You might feel that you are sooooo much better then a woman who wants or needs a abortion, and you might feel that you are sooooo much more able to make decisions regarding her life and health then her but you have not one single legit FACT to back up those feelings of superiority!
        One in three women have an abortion in this country. If we count every single woman who, regardless of the reason, is in therapy or mental distress or on medication for such you will still not get to your dishonest and unsupportable claim of “shattered women”!
        Obviously the very large majority of women is perfectly fine with their abortion, and in fact the majority report a profound sense of relief afterwards (even when asked years later, there is no regret)
        As for your question what I do; I am a retired researcher into neurological disorders! Currently I volunteer as a guardian ad litem (court appointed guardian for abused/disabled children in the system), a Alzheimer’s daycare helper and a reading mother for learning disabled children at our local schools. I also give lectures in our local middle schools on the importance of protecting marine life (at which I previously volunteered)
        So yes I’m much more able then you to actually have an opinion that is not self serving! I do not use my personal opinion to try force others to live in a way I feel comfortable with!
        You however are a very arrogant uncaring dictator who could not care one with how another person, disabled or not feels.
        Just look at your response to HM, no compassion, no regret for what she went through, just good old victim blaming!!!!!
        She was an innocent child (sorry she was not a fetus anymore) has been severely abused by her mother, she suffered immensely both physically and mentally, she is still scared deeply (and disabled) on many levels by the treatment received from her mother.
        However all you can say is that that is her own fault, she should just love the abuser and what they did to her, then it would all be better?!!!!!
        Unfortunately for you your true “compassion” for the disabled has been on a grand scale display with your inane and dishonest put down to a abuse survivor victim that just told you only a fraction of her story~

        • HeilMary1

          So well said! I completely stopped communicating with my family and relatives because they never stopping blaming and shaming me over my “sinful” self-help efforts. You can never win with these religious sadists.

      • Ella Warnock

        Yeah, I spent my childhood, teenage years, and young adulthood caring for my physically disabled and increasingly mentally ill mother – with very little help from Good Christian(TM) family and friends. So you can get up on your moral high horse, dickbag, and ride it on into the sunset. Hubris, baby. You’ve got it in spades.

      • HeilMary1

        My anti-choice mom disfigured me as her abstinence excuse and she pulled every nasty trick to prevent me from getting any REAL care because she wanted me to suffer for her war on marital sex. I’ve seen similar stunts pulled by other fetal idolaters.

        • phillip howel

          I have learned some people are beyond help.

  • phillip howel

    what do you mean?