Against Equal Rights for Disabled People? Santorum Again

November 26, 2012; Source: Associated Press

Rick and Karen Santorum wrote an op-ed for Catholic Online about their personal and political roles in “becoming a voice for the voiceless.” It is hard to fathom which voices former Sen. Santorum (R-Pa.) thinks he is channeling through his call for Congressional Republicans to oppose the ratification of a United Nations treaty that calls for equal rights for disabled people. Joined by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), Santorum doesn’t want the Senate to take up the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities during the lame-duck session of the Congress. According to the Associated Press, 36 Senate Republicans have signed a letter saying that they would oppose any lame-duck consideration of international treaties.

Although the treaty passed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Republicans have resisted bringing it up for a floor vote. This is despite the fact that former Republican President George W. Bush first signed the treaty in 2006. Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank points out that supporters of the treaty include the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wy.), and other major Republican Party leaders and thinkers. Former Sen. Bob Dole (R-Kan.), himself disabled from war wounds, also endorses ratification of the treaty.

The father of a disabled child himself, Santorum’s position is odd. The treaty basically says that disabled people should enjoy all human rights and fundamental freedoms—pretty much what U.S. law currently provides through the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act. But the voiceless people behind Lee and Santorum are apparently fearful that this treaty would make the U.S. subservient to the world government of the United Nations, sacrificing elements of U.S. sovereignty or allowing disabled people to bring litigation under the auspices of the U.N. Convention.

Tripwiring down the road, perhaps Santorum is concerned that this might impinge on home-schooling families when their practices might be deemed not in the best interests of their disabled children (Rick and Karen Santorum are longtime homeschoolers). Maybe Santorum is concerned that affording disabled people equal rights might enable them to seek access for sexual and reproductive health services—including abortion.

“(W)hat it does,” Santorum fears, “is open up a Pandora’s box for the most vulnerable among us: children with disabilities.” He must be hearing those voiceless voices looking into Pandora’s box, because there aren’t many audible voices agreeing with Santorum and Lee. In their Catholic Online article, the Santorums call for science and society to “recognize the dignity of every human life at every age and stage.” In their article, they even invoke the voiceless disabled—rather than asking advocates for the disabled to speak for themselves—in opposing embryonic stem cell research.

The U.S. International Council on Disabilities doesn’t agree with Santorum and Lee and strongly endorses the treaty’s ratification. The well-respected organization’s members including the American Association of People with Disabilities, the Arc, the Disability Rights Education and Defense Fund, Easter Seals, the National Organization on Disability, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, and Advocating Change Together. Those organizations all hear and channel the voices of the disabled. So who is Santorum hearing in his mind? –Rick Cohen

  • Dr.Ted Mauro

    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yd77CZGYCyw youtube]

    The treaty will cost no additional funds, protects Vets/Seniors & Kids, requires no changes to US law and even contains a section titled “Right to Life”. Those who oppose what the UN does need to encourage when it does something right and this one is it – that is why so many groups support it. To think that a disability bill will fail because certain people don’t want to ever agree to anything even it is for the freedom of 1 Billion of the most vulnerable people in the World is sad. It should be noted that few who are disabilied are opposed to this bill and so many who are from the right and left support it.