Disability Rights Treaty Loses U.S. Support Over Abortion

International   |   Wendy Wright   |   Aug 16, 2012   |   6:19PM   |   Washington, DC

Washington, DC (CFAM/LifeNews) — U.S. ratification of a UN treaty is stumbling due to a problem that has hounded the treaty since its beginning: does “sexual and reproductive health” include abortion?

The Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) is encountering resistance from senators, congressmen and groups who fear it will undermine national sovereignty, that its vagueness will harm those it ought to protect like disabled pre-born babies, and intrude on established rights, such as those of parents.

A letter of opposition circulating among the leading American pro-life groups is expected to be delivered in the coming days to the U.S. Senate.

The letter explains how UN officials and advocates misuse UN documents to expand rights and pressure countries on abortion – despite an unambiguous record of UN member states rejecting abortion during the negotiations and adoption of these documents.

While the Disabilities Treaty is the first hard law treaty to include the term “sexual and reproductive health,” there is plenty of evidence that the drafters do not consider abortion a part of the definition. First, the term is used in the document only as a category of non-discrimination. Additionally, negotiators gave repeated assurances throughout the negotiations and adoption that the treaty does not include a right to abortion.

The Chairman of the negotiations called concerns over UN committees taking advantage of the phrase to mean abortion “invalid” because the delegates did not intend to create any new human rights. At another point the chairman polled the room, asking if anyone believed the proposed treaty created any new rights. No country said yes.

The chairman also stressed that the traveaux preparatoire (legislative history) would guide future interpretations of the treaty. A footnote was added to that text stating, “The Ad Hoc Committee notes that the use of the phrase ‘sexual and reproductive health services’ would not constitute recognition of any new international law obligations or human rights.”

When the UN General Assembly adopted the CRPD in 2006, fifteen nations stated that abortion is excluded from “sexual and reproductive health” or that the treaty does not create new rights. No nation contradicted this.

However concerns remain. Neither the legislative history nor the footnotes are actually in the document and therefore can easily be ignored.

What’s more, since the treaty came into force abortion advocates maintain the term includes abortion and that the treaty created a new right.

In 2010, UNFPA’s Thoraya Obaid told an audience that ”reproductive health” is a “right” that was most recently enshrined in the Disabilities treaty, which includes the phrase “sexual and reproductive health.”

The Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) trumpets the “(Disability Rights Convention) is the first comprehensive international human rights instrument to specifically identify the right to reproductive and sexual health as a human right.” CRR believes reproductive rights and health encompass abortion.

At UNFPA and CRR briefings with UN treaty committees, the agenda listed “denial of reproductive healthcare services, including abortion” among “reproductive rights violations.”

Attempts to “evolve” the definition prompted diplomats to reject “reproductive rights” at the Rio+20 summit because it has come to be “a code at the UN for abortion.”

This conflict was reflected at a U.S. Senate hearing in July on the disability treaty. Pro-abortion senators gutted an amendment clarifying the treaty is abortion-neutral, stating it was unnecessary. It is expected the U.S. Senate will vote on ratification sometime this Fall.

LifeNews Note: Wendy Wright writes for the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. This article originally appeared in the pro-life group’s Friday Fax and is used with permission.