Oct 01

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Heritage Sentinel: U.N. Disabilities Treaty approval looming in Lame Duck


Heritage Action Sentinel LogoThe United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)—also known as the U.N. Disabilities Treaty—may be brought before the U.S. Senate in the lame duck session for ratification approval. This is a treaty between the United States and the United Nations. Beware of U.N. treaties!

What does the term Disability mean? In U.S. law it refers to “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities.” For this U.N. convention, “disability is an evolving concept and that disability results from the interaction between persons with impairments and attitudinal and environmental barriers that hinders their full and effective participation in society on an equal basis with others.” Clearly, defining the term disability as “evolving” indicates that it is open to redefinition meaning that the legal impact of this treaty on U.S. citizens and local, state, and federal governments is also subject to non-U.S. controlled change.

With this in mind, once ratified, treaties have the force of law. Rather than providing a means for governing the interaction between nations—the fundamental purpose of a treaty—progressives are now using treaties to implement civil and criminal law within countries. This is fundamentally wrong as it violates the central provision of the U.S. Constitution granting the legislative powers to Congress comprised of the House of Representatives and the Senate. New legislation must pass both and be signed by the president to become law. This was, in fact, the opinion of President George W. Bush when the convention was adopted in 2006. The convention’s focus on disabilities fell within the arena of domestic law. At the time, it was stated that “the United States had no intention of becoming party to the treaty.” The U.S. did join in the consensus in the U.S. General Assembly that adopted the treaty and opened it to other countries to sign and ratify. Fundamental to President Bush’s reservation is the fact that, per the U.S. Constitution, treaties are the “supreme law of the land” as if they were part of the Constitution. Clearly, adopting treaties is to be done carefully! Adopting a treaty with an evolving definition of its scope is clearly unwise.

In 2009, President Obama signed the primary convention and sent it to the U.S. Senate for approval for ratification. President Obama did this in order to “position the United States to occupy the global leadership role [with respect to protecting the rights of persons with disabilities] to which our domestic record already attests.” However, in doing this, President Obama added three reservations, five understandings, and one declaration to accompany the treaty. While these would appear to neuter any legal impact of the convention, opponents of ratification argue that, seeing no clear benefit and having clear concerns about the impact on U.S. sovereignty, approval for ratification should be denied. President Obama’s need to add provisions appears to underline this opposition.

Keeping in mind that disability is an “evolving concept” coupled with the potential for judicial activism within U.S. federal courts, as seen in Obamacare, Article 4, General obligations, of the convention includes these actions that ratifying nations must adhere to:

“b.To take all appropriate measures, including legislation, to modify or abolish existing laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination against persons with disabilities;

“d.To refrain from engaging in any act or practice that is inconsistent with the present Convention and to ensure that public authorities and institutions act in conformity with the present Convention;”



John McCain (R, AZ) and John Barrasso (R,WY) voted in the Foreign Relations Committee on 22 Jul 2014 to send the convention to the full Senate for a vote. This would be the second vote. The first, in 2012, failed to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority.

In its weekly update, Heritage Sentinel noted: U.N. Disabilities Treaty. Another possible move for the Senate is the attempted ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). This so-called U.N. Disabilities Treaty is redundant in that the rights of disabled persons in America are already protected by a variety of laws, all of which meet or exceed the obligations laid out in the CRPD. More to the point, ratification yields authority to U.N. committees and exposes us to anti-American infringements of educational and pro-life policies. As Senior Research Fellow Steven Groves notes:

“The U.S. has ample reason to expect that the experts on the CRPD Committee will disregard U.S. sovereignty and embark on…forays in pursuit of a broader agenda of social and cultural engineering unrelated to disabilities.”


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