Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Religious Right Scorns Disabilities Convention

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is a human rights instrument meant to protect the rights and freedoms of persons with disabilities. The CRPD affirms that persons with physical, mental, and sensory disabilities shall be equal before the law, protected from discrimination, and ensured full inclusion in the community. The document addresses issues such as accessibility, liberty of movement, information access, exploitation and abuse, and humanitarian emergencies. Additionally, it gives special attention to the rights of women and children with disabilities.

Adopted on December 13th, 2006 at United Nations Headquarters, the Convention has been signed by 155 countries and ratified by 126 countries. Although the U.S. signed the CRPD in 2009, a recent ratification attempt failed. According to the U.S. Senate website, a resolution of ratification for the Convention was rejected, having failed to secure a two-thirds majority vote in the Senate. All 38 "nay" votes were cast by Republicans, with only 7 Republicans voting in favor of ratification. (Hat tip to Salon and Ms. Magazine)

The ratification failure comes after months of vocal Religious Right opposition to the Convention. As with other international human rights documents, Religious Right forced have marshaled opposition to the CRPD by lambasting it as an alleged affront to U.S. sovereignty, a threat to parental rights, and a harbinger of expanded abortion rights.

First, in a commentary at World Net Daily, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum slammed the convention, insisting that it would do nothing to help persons with disabilities in the U.S. Furthermore, he claimed that it would allegedly undermine parental authority by giving the government (supposedly operating under U.N. authority) ultimate authority over what is in the best interest of children with disabilities. Along similar lines, he claimed that the CRPD could destroy parents' right to educate children with disabilities as they see fit. The CRPD, Santorum concluded, was a sinister threat to American sovereignty.
"In short, there is no reason for our country to give up our sovereignty to the United Nations when it comes to providing benefits and protections for the disabled in America. Furthermore, it would be an egregious move to deny parents of children with disabilities the right to do what they think is in their child’s best interest in exchange for some illegitimate claim that disabled Americans will have better treatment abroad. CRPD must be defeated."
On the December 3rd edition of Glenn Beck's radio show, Santorum lambasted the CPRD again, calling it a "canard". Beck himself called the proposed registration of children born with disabilities "Orwellian" and "fascistic". Conveniently, he ignored the passage on registration that would ensure disabled children's right to a name and nationality. Santorum and Beck made other wild accusations against the document, claiming that it would allow for state overreach and encourage abortion. (Hat tip to Right Wing Watch.)
SANTORUM: The Marxists, socialists-slash-progressives ... want to have the government in the position where they are extending rights, and that the government therefore by giving you rights has obviously a lot more operational control of your lives.

BECK: One thing that I've been really worried about--first of all, devaluing life. That does this. It also tracked everybody. It also I think sets you up--you have the right to know and be cared for by your parents. I think that's a push for abortion, quite honestly, because if you are going to be held responsible years later, that will discourage adoption and discourage abortion, I think.
Santorum and Beck are in good company among the Religious Right. Multiple Religious Right voices have denounced the treaty for its real or imagined provisions. For instance, in a December 4th commentary at the Eagle Forum website, antifeminist Phyllis Schlafly speculated that "some pro-abortion supremacist judges" could use the CRPD to defend abortion rights if the convention were ratified. She mocked the treaty as a vehicle for "social engineering" and "feminist ideology." 
"The globalists are trying to stampede the U.S. Senate into ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The notion that the UN can provide more benefits or protections for persons with disabilities than the United States is bizarre. The United States always treats individuals better than any other nation. We certainly don't need a committee of foreigners who call themselves "experts" to tell us what to do. Under this treaty, we would be required to make regular reports to a "committee of experts" to prove we are obeying the treaty. These demands override national sovereignty in pursuit of social engineering, feminist ideology, or merely busybody interference in a country's internal affairs."
The Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has made similar accusations against the CRPD. In a July 3rd commentary, HSLDA Director of Federal Relations William A. Estrada wrote that the CRPD would allegedly undermine parental rights to homeschool their disabled children. He also warned that the CRPD would allegedly weaken U.S. sovereignty by creating an international oversight committee to supervise countries that have ratified the convention.

Also, in an August 20th commentary, HSLDA founder Michael Farris claimed that the CRPD would expand abortion rights. Specifically, he claimed that CRPD provisions that allow for reproductive rights and family planning education for disabled persons would result in the government paying "for Planned Parenthood-style education" and reproductive health services such as abortion.

Through bombastic, fearful rhetoric, the Religious Right demonized a human rights document that could have helped countless Americans with disabilities. By fearmongering over illusory threats to U.S. sovereignty, not to mention rousing right-wing ire over abortion, the Religious Right rejected a tool that could have helped strengthen the rights of disabled persons. Dozens of GOP Senators apparently followed suit, rejecting ratification. As usual, ideology and fear trump human rights in the right-wing universe.

For additional commentary, visit the following links.

Right Wing Watch: How Unhinged Rhetoric Sank a Disabilities Rights Treaty in the Senate

American Civil Liberties Union: ACLU Disappointed with Senate's Failure to Ratify Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

Maddow Blog: Senate GOP Kills Disabilities Treaty

Slate: Social Conservatives Kill a U.N. Treaty (Again)


  1. Ugh...I must admit, the title of your post "got me going" before I ever read a word...With that aside, what is wrong with these people? Look, I may be pretty anti-Christianity, but I would be lying if I stated that Jesus did not have some good philosophical ideas--like caring for the needy. How is it that this message, of all the crap in the bible, seems to get omitted by the Religious Right the most? It is one thing that we should all be able to agree on...

    1. ReasonBeing -- I too find it baffling that the Religious Right neglects Jesus' teachings about caring for others. It seems like every time some human rights instrument comes up, the Religious Right wants knock it down.

  2. Looking at the document's index, I'm not surprised it was not ratified. The document requests rights for people with disabilities that other people don't have.

    To name but a few:

    - Equal recognition before law. While all US citizens are supposed to be protected by the constitution, black people and especially men are still very much discriminated against by the law enforcement department. And not just black people. If you're not rich and need an attorney that does his/her work well, good luck to you and see you in jail.

    - Freedom of torture. The USA can't guarantee this freedom for any citizen, why would it agree to guarantee it for disabled people? That's discrimination at its finest.

    - Freedom of expression and opinion. See above.

    - Respect for privacy. Is this a joke?

    No, sarcasm aside. It is a good document and it is absolutely outrageous it was not ratified by Senate. From what I've gathered the main reason is because this document would encourage abortion. I think it's pretty stupid that there are still people trying to outlaw abortion. Abortion, after all, is a choice. It is okay to disagree with it, but not to impose this conviction on others. Especially because it's a conviction that has its roots in religion and is therefore almost by definition unreasonable. Also, it's pretty absurd that the Religious Right is not willing to overlook the issue of abortion to make room for a treaty that would secure human rights. Seems like they need to get their priorities straight.

    You know what's funny? It's something I've noticed. The right often complains that the left wants a large government and more control of the people. But the more I see, the more it seems the right wants more control than the left.

    1. Sabrina -- The irony is glaring. The far right is always screeching about "big government", but all too eager to exert government control over reproduction and LGBTQ people. (And don't get me started on how the far right wants to undermine church-state separation!)

      It's sickening how right-wing GOP Senators refused to ratify this document on such shaky grounds.


All comments are subject to moderation. Threatening, violent, or bigoted comments will not be published.