The UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities was put up for a vote in the U.S. Senate today, and despite being largely uncontroversial, it failed. Why? Pro-lifers.
And, of course, the usual right-wing suspects who don’t understand how treaties and international law work. The convention lists, among many others, reproductive rights for people with disabilities, which pro-lifers obviously take issue with. But as far as I can tell from this press conference, they’re even more concerned with the fact that the treaty would apply the “best interests of the child” standard, which pro-lifers say impedes “family sovereignty.” Rick Santorum says he finds it “troubling” that the convention has a special section for children with disabilities. Here’s that section, Article 7, in full:
1. States Parties shall take all necessary measures to ensure the full enjoyment by children with disabilities of all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other children.
2. In all actions concerning children with disabilities, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
3. States Parties shall ensure that children with disabilities have the right to express their views freely on all matters affecting them, their views being given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity, on an equal basis with other children, and to be provided with disability and age-appropriate assistance to realize that right.
Now, it’s worth pointing out that the treaty wouldn’t require states or the federal government to pass laws in accordance with the treaty. And U.S. law already uses the “best interest of the child” standard in a variety of legal situations, most commonly in custody cases. But what pro-lifers are essentially saying is that parents and care-takers should be able to do whatever they want, and focusing on the interests of children is some sort of violation. They’re particularly concerned about home-schooling, because they recognize that kids with disabilities might actually need specialized education that many home-schooling parents are not equipped to give. These parents may nonetheless refuse to enroll their children in special education programs because of whatever ideological opposition to public or secular education, doing the children a serious disservice and impeding their development.
We know that people with disabilities are abused and mistreated at much higher rates than the general population. We know that children with disabilities are very vulnerable to abuse, including from their parents. We know that the desires of parents and care-takers are often privileged over the needs of children with disabilities.
That’s the status quo that “pro-lifers” — those people who care about babies oh so much — are trying to maintain.