by Steven Ertelt
December 14, 2006
New York, NY (LifeNews.com) — After four years of negotiations, the United Nations General Assembly gave final approval to a treaty to protect the rights and dignity of people with disabilities. Pro-life groups that lobby at the UN are pleased because the document promotes the right to life of disabled people and also doesn’t contain language promoting abortion.
In lobbying during the drafting of the document, pro-life advocates say they were able to mitigate many of the concerns that the treaty would promote abortion or deny the disabled appropriate medical care.
Jeanne Head, a nurse who represents the National Right to Life Committee at the UN, told LifeNews.com that the treaty contains "provisions include the right to life, food, water, and health care without discrimination."
The treaty affirms the right to life of disabled newborns and has provisions ensuring that patients get appropriate lifesaving medical treatment.
The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities will go into force 30 days after the first 20 nations ratify it, a process expected to be completed by 2008 or 2009. Governments can begin ratifying the treaty and agreeing to its provisions in March 2007.
Head said the treaty will "substantially improve the lives of persons with disabilities throughout the world."
Much of the debate leading up to the adoption of the treaty had to do with the term "sexual and reproductive health" which the United States and other nations worried could lead to promoting abortion.
But Head told LifeNews.com that statements about the interpretation of the phrase, and construing it as not promoting abortion, went unchallenged.
As a result, the treaty "cannot legitimately be misrepresented to include abortion, create any new rights such as a right to abortion and cannot be interpreted to constitute support, endorsement, or promotion of abortion."
This is crucial because nations that adopt the treaty must change their laws to conform to it and dozens of pro-life countries that want to protect the disabled don’t want to remove their pro-life laws prohibiting abortion at the same time.
Head also said the interpretation of the phrase is important because UN committees have frequently lobbied pro-life nations to legalize abortion.
During the debate on the phrase, the United States, the Vatican and the delegate from the Marshall Islands made the strongest statements in opposition to defining the term as promoting abortion.
"The Marshall Islands accepts the phrase sexual and reproductive health with the understanding that it does not include abortion," its representative said.