I was in Washington, D.C., on Dec. 4, 2012. It should have been an amazing day to celebrate a ratification that embodied the leadership of American values: individual rights, freedom, equality and access into the world. But that is not how the day turned out.
Instead, the U.S. Senate failed to ratify the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In a shockingly disappointing reflection of our current political landscape and political discourse, nearly 40 Republican senators, including our own Dan Coats, voted against ratification. CRPD is a treaty that seeks to ensure that people with disabilities around the world have the same rights as everyone else. It affirms the values of dignity, empowerment, economic self-sufficiency, self-determination and non-discrimination – all values Americans hold dear. Furthermore, it seeks to ensure that all Americans, including our veterans with disabilities, enjoy the same rights outside the U.S. that they do here at home.
It is for these reasons that the treaty enjoyed tremendous support from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, from 21 veterans organizations, from the entire Senate Democratic caucus and from such prominent Republican leaders as Sen. John McCain, former Sen. Bob Dole and Indiana’s statesman, former Sen. Richard Lugar.
What is most disheartening is that the treaty failed to pass based on fear and misinformation. U.S. sovereignty was never in jeopardy. No changes to U.S. law would be required by ratification because our domestic laws – upon which the treaty’s recommendations are modeled – are so strong. Yet opponents rallied their political forces with fear-driven false claims of limits on homeschooling and expansion of abortion. Fear is real, but so are facts. Looking at them carefully is critical to making informed decisions.
CRPD in being reintroduced in the Senate. It is time for Hoosiers to speak out in support of the American values it embodies and encourage Coats and Sen. Joe Donnelly to support its passage. American leadership is still a powerful and much-needed force for good in the world. Please join me in urging Coats and Donnelly to support ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
Family leadership coordinator
Riley Child Development Center