Since the birth of our special needs daughter Bella more than six years ago, my wife Karen and I have become vocal advocates for the rights of the disabled.
That is why we have been so opposed to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities since it first came up in 2012.
If there was anything in the CRPD that would make life better for Bella and others like her, we would be its fiercest champions, but there isn’t.
The United States already has the strongest protections for those with disabilities under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and proponents of the CRPD say they agree that this treaty does nothing to change things here at home.
Some hope this treaty would encourage other countries to change how they treat their disabled citizens. Unfortunately, one only needs to look around the world for proof of the CRPD’s ineffectiveness. Most of the world has already ratified the treaty, including some of the world’s most brutal dictatorships. There is no one reason why the CRPD has failed as a global tool for aiding the world’s disabled, but it has failed. Having the United States ratify the CRPD will not magically make the treaty effective.
There are many troubling provisions in this treaty. A crucial part uses the same language as the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child’s “best interest of the child” standard. It would give the federal government, under U.N. direction, the right to ignore states’ laws on the subjects of family law and child welfare and possibly determine what is best for our disabled children. While some say that would never be enforced, are you willing to make that gamble?
There is not even a definition of “disability” in the CRPD. In fact, the drafters of the CRPD specifically decided to not define disability, and cast disability as an open-ended “evolving concept.” This may some day allow a U.N. panel to take radical perspectives on just what will qualify as a disability.
Despite its defeat in 2012, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., tried to bring it up again in 2013. At that time Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., the ranking Republican of the committee, used the hearings to ask some very pointed questions reflecting the concerns of millions of other Americans. After an effort to work with Democrats and the State Department to develop reservations, understandings and declarations designed to quarantine the most troublesome parts of the treaty, Corker announced last December in no uncertain terms that he could no longer support the treaty. He determined that it posed a real threat to our sovereignty, our federalist system and democratic governance in general.
On July 22, the CRPD again went before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and it was unfortunately approved by a vote of 12-6. No doubt sensing their days controlling the Senate are numbered, Democrats will once again try to force quick ratification before the full chamber.
Vice President Joe Biden waits to conduct a mock swearing-in ceremony with Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, in the Capitol's Old Senate Chamber, December 2, 2014. Schatz was sworn in to serve the remainder of his term since he was appointed to the seat after Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, passed away.