From a wheelchair, former Republican Senator Bob Dole made a courageous and spirited defense of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons With Disabilities, but his fellow Republicans defeated its ratification and rolled the honorable Senator out back of the Capitol and left him near the dumpsters. He was discovered 3 hours later and Congressional staffers claimed a simple oversight.
The measure would not require any additional laws and would instead simply put pressure on other countries to abide by terms already laid out in the groundbreaking Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, which was championed by Dole, an injured veteran, and signed by President George H. W. Bush.
Republican opposition claimed that such a United Nations mandate would force the United States to declare that all citizens, regardless of ability, deserve to live in dignity, safety and equality under the law. “This interferes with the sovereignty of the United States, ” said Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), “What if we decided later that we wanted to change our mind on that? What then?”
Former Republican Senator Rick Santorum said that language in the treaty would mandate abortions for anyone who might possibly become disabled. He went on to say that ratification would also mean that people in wheelchairs would be allowed to use birth control, homeschooled children would be forced to watch Sesame Street, and it would violate religious freedoms because in the best religions God gives dignity to the disabled if he chooses to heal them. He maintained that if the government gives dignity to all disabled persons right away without having to pray and wait to be healed, that undermines God’s power.
A flustered Senator John Kerry (D-Massachusetts) asked, “Have you people lost your minds? Because if you have, ratification of this convention could help protect your disability under the law. “