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Politics win over the rights of the disabled: The CRPD

Posted Dec 08 2012 2:00am

The American Senate voted for the Convention on theRights of Persons with Disabilities, CRPD, just not by enough of a margin to pass it. The vote was 61 to 34 with 3 abstentions.

Rick Santorum was a force against the Convention. He is quoted in a number of places as stating:

“If it weren’t for you, the U.S. Senate wouldn’t have defeated the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Your petition signatures (over 20,000!), phone calls, emails and tweets about CRPD’s flaws made the difference.”

When I read such a statement, I am saddened that I didn’t do more to get out the word to voice support. Not that this site would have made the difference, but I wish I had done more.

The Convention was rejected by groups who felt the U.S. should not cede sovereignty over these decisions. A major point is this: the U.S. doesn’t really respond to the U.N. anyway. Sorry to put it so bluntly, but the major force behind enforcing the will of the U.N. is the U.S.. Also, if we as a people are already following the rules set forth in the Convention, we are not going to cede sovereignty to anyone, right? But, still, the specter of “the UN will tell the US how to treat their disabled children” was raised.

On CNN’s Anderson Cooper show, this point was discussed, including this rather strong statement to the contrary by John Kerry:

SEN. JOHN KERRY (D), MASSACHUSETTS: Well, I have great respect for both Rick and his wife, Karen, and their daughter and their family. He’s a strong family man. But he either simply hasn’t read the treaty or doesn’t understand it or he was just not factual in what he said, because the United Nations has absolutely zero, zero, I mean, zero ability to order or to tell or to even — I mean, they can suggest, but they have no legal capacity to tell the United States to do anything under this treaty. Nothing.

How about the other side of the discussion? In what areas might we as a people not agree with what is in the Convention? Health care. You read that correctly, health care. The country that spends the most on health care in the world is worried that the UN would impose their rule on us in health care of the disabled.

RICK SANTORUM (R), FORMER U.S. SENATOR: This is a direct assault on us and our family to hand over to the state the ability to make medical determinations and see what is in the best interest of the child and not look at the wonderful gift that every child is.

I see a familiar theme here. The disabled are all children. Moving on, one might ask, “in what way would health care be an issue?” Here is the section of the CRPD on health care:

States Parties recognize that persons with disabilities have the right to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health without discrimination on the basis of disability. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure access for persons with disabilities to health services that are gender-sensitive, including health-related rehabilitation. In particular, States Parties shall:

a.Provide persons with disabilities with the same range, quality and standard of free or affordable health care and programmes as provided to other persons, including in the area of sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health programmes;
b.Provide those health services needed by persons with disabilities specifically because of their disabilities, including early identification and intervention as appropriate, and services designed to minimize and prevent further disabilities, including among children and older persons;
c.Provide these health services as close as possible to people’s own communities, including in rural areas;
d.Require health professionals to provide care of the same quality to persons with disabilities as to others, including on the basis of free and informed consent by, inter alia, raising awareness of the human rights, dignity, autonomy and needs of persons with disabilities through training and the promulgation of ethical standards for public and private health care;
e.Prohibit discrimination against persons with disabilities in the provision of health insurance, and life insurance where such insurance is permitted by national law, which shall be provided in a fair and reasonable manner;
f.Prevent discriminatory denial of health care or health services or food and fluids on the basis of disability.

In case you are wondering what in that raised concerns, it’s this phrase: “including in the area of sexual and reproductive health”. Yes. The U.S. didn’t ratify the Convention because some groups are concerned that it includes right to birth control, including abortions.

But that’s not all. By putting “population-based public health programmes” adjacent to that statement, the door was opened for this sort of fear mongering:

Bradley Mattes, president of the International Right to Life Federation, stated, “This is a misleading measure in that it does nothing to protect life. It is disguised as a way to ‘help’ the disabled. Instead it intentionally sacrifices the most vulnerable – the disabled and the unborn – all in the name of population control.”

Yes, “population based public health programs” become “population control”. In case you are wondering, here are a few definitions of “population-based” in regards to health care, including:

Population-based care involves a new way of seeing the masses of individuals seeking health care. It is a way of looking at patients not just as individuals but as members of groups with shared health care needs. This approach does not detract from individuality but rather adds another dimension, as individuals benefit from the guidelines developed for the populations to which they belong.

No, it is not population control. “Population-based care” isn’t a scary thing.

There is another area where the way the U.S. acts today might be called into question on the issue of health care: “Prevent discriminatory denial of health care or health services or food and fluids on the basis of disability.” There have been a few high profile cases in recent times where individuals were denied transplants due to disability.

In the end, this is a sad day for the U.S.. We have shown the world that we would rather not open ourselves up to criticism. Yes, criticism. That’s the most that could come out of the CRPD from members of the U.N., criticism. Which we would veto. We would rather not face criticism than provide leadership in the world and give ourselves leverage to help enact real change in other countries. If another country abuses its disabled citizens, what are we going to say? “Hey, you aren’t respecting the rights of your disabled citizens.” Yeah. That will carry a lot of weight.


By Matt Carey


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