Critics warn UN convention on disabled could advance abortion

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Critics of a United Nations convention on the rights of the disabled warned a congressional caucus that some passages could be used to advance abortion and undermine parents’ rights.

Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) said the “ambiguity” of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities could cause “frivolous litigation” and advance abortion by classifying it as a human right.

At a briefing for the House Sovereignty Caucus this week, the congressman said that the convention “would allow unelected bureaucrats in Switzerland to determine the meaning of the words 'disability' and 'sexual reproductive health.'”

The Senate Foreign Affairs subcommittee approved the convention in July, the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute reports.

The convention aims to “promote, protect, and ensure the full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities, and to promote respect for their inherent dignity.”

It also includes language about disabled persons’ right to equal health care in “sexual and reproductive health.”

Subcommittee member Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) had proposed an amendment clarifying that the treaty cannot be used to advance abortion, but it failed in a party-line vote.

Dr. Susan Yoshihara, the director for international research at the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute, told the Sovereignty Caucus that the phrase “sexual and reproductive health” was put into the treaty despite a lack of consensus. She said convention organizers resorted to using “secret meetings and venues where not all delegations were allowed” to secure the document’s language

She cautioned against the assumption that the treaty will not be used to advance a “right to abortion.” The Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights do not mention abortion, she noted, but their organizing committees have “pressured more than 90 countries over 120 times to liberalize abortion.”

Any reservations stated by the U.S. Senate will be inadequate, in her view.

Other critics of the treaty, such as Home School Legal Defense Association chairman Michael Farris, worried of its effects on the parents of special needs children.

“Government agents, and not parents, are being given the authority to decide all educational and treatment issues for disabled children,” Farris said.

Forty-nine congressmen have signed a letter urging the Senate to reject the convention on disability rights.

Rep. Duncan co-chairs the House Sovereignty Caucus with Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.). The caucus intends to “protect and defend the rights of American citizens and the interests of American institutions from the increasing influence of international organizations and multilateral agreements,” Rep. Lamborn’s congressional website says.

The United Nations adopted the convention in 2006. At the time, Archbishop Celestino Migliore, the apostolic nuncio leading the Holy See’s permanent observer mission, praised the convention’s “many helpful articles” but said the Vatican is unable to sign it.

In December 2006 he told the plenary meeting of the U.N. General Assembly that his delegation opposed the inclusion of the phrase about sexual and reproductive health because some countries define abortion as a reproductive health service. He said this approach denies “the inherent right to life of every human being” which is affirmed in article 10 of the convention.

“It is surely tragic that, wherever fetal defect is a precondition for offering or employing abortion, the same Convention created to protect persons with disabilities from all discrimination in the exercise of their rights, may be used to deny the very basic right to life of disabled unborn persons,” the archbishop said.

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