Kerry on U.N. Disabilities Treaty: ‘No Impact Whatsoever On the Sovereignty of the United States’

Penny Starr | November 22, 2013 | 9:33am EST
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Secretary of State John Kerry ( Starr)

( – Despite what critics claim could lead to restrictions on parenting and  educating special needs children in the United States and global abortion promotion, Secretary of State John Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday that ratification of the United Nation’s Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will have “no impact” on U.S. sovereignty.

“There’s no impact whatsoever on the sovereignty of the United States,” Kerry said. “In fact, you all are exercising our sovereignty right now by doing what the framers of the Constitution envisioned, which is ratifying a treaty.”

But critics, including former Sen. Rick Santorum, who has a daughter with Trisomy 18, disagree. A letter posted on Santorum’s Patriot Voices website encourages Americans to call their senators in opposition to the treaty.

"CRPD threatens U.S. sovereignty and parental rights, and if ratified, it would effectively put us under international law when it comes to parenting our special needs children,” the letter stated. “While CRPD may on the surface appear to protect those with disabilities, it actually gives the government the power, with direction from the U.N., to decide what is best for our children. 

“That is wrong and not something we should see in the United States of America,” the letter states.

At a Nov. 5 Foreign Relations Committee hearing, Susan Yoshihara, senior vice president for research at the Catholic Family and Human Right Institute, testified in opposition to ratification of the treaty, stating that it could liberalize abortion around the world.

“We should be clear,” Yoshihara said. “The Disabilities Treaty includes ‘sexual and reproductive health’ as a category of non-discrimination and not as a right.

“But this should not allay the concerns of lawmakers,” Yoshihara said. “In 10 years time, treaty bodies pressured more than 90 countries over 120 times to liberalize abortion, even though no U.N. treaty mentioned reproductive health or rights, let alone abortion.”

In her testimony, Yoshihara gave the specific example of the U.N. Human Rights Committee’s pressure on Peru.

“The Human Rights Committee told Peru that its protection of an unborn disabled child was ‘cruel and inhuman’ and therefore violated the treaty. 

“The following year when the Disabilities Treaty was adopted, the Holy See announced it would not sign the Disabilities Treaty, explaining that ‘It is surely tragic that … the same Convention created to protect persons with disabilities … may be used to deny the very basic right to life of disabled unborn persons.’”

During Thursday’s hearing, Kerry made his remarks after being questioned by Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), chairman of the committee and supporter of treaty ratification.

“Now another argument that I’ve heard is that ratification would subordinate the United States to the United Nations and allow our laws and actions to be guided by the United Nations – the disabilities treaty committee – for courts and judges,” Menendez said.

“I personally disagree with that view, and I think we tried to explore it in our first hearing, but I’d like to get your take: would ratification violate principles of American sovereignty?” he asked.

Kerry said, “On the contrary. There’s no impact whatsoever on the sovereignty of the United States.

“In fact, you all are exercising our sovereignty right now by doing what the framers of the Constitution envisioned, which is ratifying a treaty.

Kerry went on to list the things the treaty would not impact, including U.S. law.

“So in fact, joining this treaty doesn’t require a change to U.S. law, and there’s no reach whatsoever by any committee or any entity outside – the one committee that exists within the framework of this treaty is allowed to suggest things, but they have no power to enforce, no power to compel,” Kerry said. “No power to do anything except put an idea on the table.”

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