Rick Santorum Is Back – And His New Cause Is To Oppose Rights For His Daughter

Author: November 27, 2012 9:08 am

Rick Santorum might have lost his quest to be President of the United States, but that hasn’t kept him away from Capitol Hill. On Monday, he lobbied for a new cause, or rather for a cause that was negotiated during the George W. Bush administration in 2006 and signed by Barack Obama in 2009. He and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) are pressuring the Senate to not sign off on the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Both men expressed “grave concerns” about the treaty, which would prevent discrimination based on disabilities. From the Washington Post:

The former presidential candidate pronounced his “grave concerns” about the treaty, which forbids discrimination against people with AIDS, who are blind, who use wheelchairs and the like. “This is a direct assault on us,” he declared at a news conference.

Lee, a tea party favorite, said he, too, has “grave concerns” about the document’s threat to American sovereignty. “I will do everything I can to block its ratification, and I have secured the signatures of 36 Republican senators, all of whom have joined with me saying that we will oppose any ratification of any treaty during this lame-duck session.”

There is a pervasive school of conservative thought that believes that the United States is not part of the world as a whole and that the UN should have no place in determining our laws.


Some on the religious right oppose the treaty for two words, “reproductive health.” They believe that those two words could lead to forced abortions and sterilization. No matter where you stand on that particular issue, opposing the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities is nothing but petulant grandstanding. The treaty was designed around the Americans with Disabilities Act. Americans are the leaders on this particular human rights issue, not the reluctant followers. Leading the effort to pass the treaty is Sen. John Kerry (D-MA). From the Huffington Post:

Supporters of the treaty, led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., says its main purpose is to encourage other countries to implement the same rights for the disabled already ensured in the United States. He says the treaty requires no changes in U.S. law and that the U.N. committee created by the treaty only has the power to recommend, and cannot force individual nations to change their laws.

What the treaty does, Kerry said at the July committee vote, “is provide a critical tool as we work to ensure that American citizens, including our men and women in uniform and our disabled veterans, are free to travel, work and live abroad.”

Perhaps most mind-boggling is that Santorum himself has a disabled daughter. Isabella, or “Bella” as she’s called by the family, was born with a rare genetic disorder called Trisomy 18, which is much worse than Downs Syndrome. The vast majority of Trisomy 18 patients never live to see toddlerhood. Despite the odds, Bella has made it to four and a half. Perhaps because of her young age and the fact that the Santorums have the financial resources to keep Bella in safe, comfortable environments, he is blissfully unaware of the prejudices that disabled people can face. In fact, Santorum brought Bella to the Senate floor:

“There’s no benefit to the United States from passing it,” he said, as Bella wriggled in her mother’s arms. “But what it does is open up a Pandora’s box for the most vulnerable among us: children with disabilities.”

Lee claims he has enough signatures to block the treaty in the Senate but it’s doubtful that it will hold. Few Senators have the political courage to stand against a treaty designed by Americans to protect some of the most vulnerable among us.

So far, 154 countries have signed the treaty and 126 have ratified it.

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