Senate Republicans blocked ratification of U.N. treaty to protect people with disabilities

SOURCE: WhiteHouse.gov

Thirty-eight Republican Senators voted yesterday to block the ratification of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, brushing aside pleas from veterans groups, disability advocates, and former GOP Senator Bob Dole.

Seven Republicans and two Independents voted with the Democrats to adopt the treaty, which was passed by the U.N. General Assembly in 2006 and signed by the U.S. in 2009.

But in the end, the 61 “yea” votes fell short of the two-thirds majority needed to ratify the treaty.

As of November, more than 126 countries around the world have ratified the treaty to ensure that “disabled people have fundamental rights to both accessibility and inclusion.

The reasons given by Republican Senators for rejecting treaty have ranged from the potential for “infringement upon U.S. sovereignty” by an international committee “tasked with providing criticisms and recommendations for the United States on our disability laws” to ensure compliance with the treaty; the treaty’s clause on ensuring access to “reproductive and family planning education and means” which has been interpreted as “endors[ing] or promot[ing] abortion rights”, and the fact that the “United States has the world’s best record on disability issues” would prompt the international community to “misdirect blame” on the United States.

Former Republican Sen. Bob Dole wrote a heartfelt letter in support of the treaty’s ratification, stressing that “no first class democracy can tolerate second class citizens.”

“We have recognized that people with disabilities are integral to our society, that we cannot afford to waste their talents, nor can we proclaim our beloved America demonstrably–the home of the brave, the land of the free–as we overlook the abilities that trump any disabilities,” wrote Dole, who lost an arm while serving in Italy during World War II. “As the ranks of the disabled and their families swell, so does popular support for measures to ensure equality of access and opportunity. One way or another disability issues touch nearly every family in America.”

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who broke ranks with his GOP colleagues, pointed out that “virtually every major veterans organization in America supports the treaty.”

In a letter to Congress, 21 veterans organizations – including AMVETS, Veterans of Foreign Wars, and Wounded Warrior Project – urged the Senate to ratify the U.N. treaty because it “supports equal treatment and non-discrimination in access to rehabilitation, employment and educational opportunities” and “promotes empowerment of our nation’s veterans and servicemembers with disabilities by providing the opportunity to achieve independent living and inclusion into all aspects of society.”

Overview of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: 

The U.N. treaty calls on countries to “abolish laws, regulations, customs and practices that constitute discrimination” against people with disabilities and to “guarantee that persons with disabilities enjoy their inherent right to life on an equal basis with others”:

  • “recognize that all persons are equal before the law, to prohibit discrimination on the basis of disability and guarantee equal legal protection”
  • “ensure access to justice on an equal basis with others”
  • “make sure that persons with disabilities enjoy the right to liberty and security and are not deprived of their liberty unlawfully or arbitrarily”
  • guarantee freedom from torture and from cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, and prohibit medical or scientific experiments without the consent of the person concerned”
  • “identify and eliminate obstacles and barriers and ensure that persons with disabilities can access their environment, transportation, public facilities and services, and information and communications technologies”
  • “ensure the equal right to own and inherit property, to control financial affairs and to have equal access to bank loans, credit and mortgages”
  • end “discrimination relating to marriage, family and personal relations shall be eliminated. Persons with disabilities shall have the equal opportunity to experience parenthood, to marry and to found a family, to decide on the number and spacing of children, to have access to reproductive and family planning education and means, and to enjoy equal rights and responsibilities regarding guardianship, wardship, trusteeship and adoption of children
  • “ensure equal access to primary and secondary education, vocational training, adult education and lifelong learning.”
  • “receive the same range, quality and standard of free or affordable health services as provided other persons, receive those health services needed because of their disabilities, and not to be discriminated against in the provision of health insurance”
  • ensure “equal rights to work and gain a living”
  • ensure “right to vote, to stand for elections and to hold office”

“Persons with disabilities have a significant positive impact on society, and their contributions can be even greater if we remove barriers to their participation. With more than one billion persons with disabilities in our world today, this is more important than ever,” said U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. “Together, we must strive to achieve the goals of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: to eliminate discrimination and exclusion, and to create societies that value diversity and inclusion.”

 

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16 Comments on “Senate Republicans blocked ratification of U.N. treaty to protect people with disabilities

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