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Rick Santorum Renews Call To Defeat UN Disabilities Treaty

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RICK SANTORUM
Former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.). | Getty

Ahead of Tuesday’s hearings on the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), held by the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) urged supporters to phone their senators and voice opposition to the CRPD.

"CRPD threatens U.S. sovereignty and parental rights, and if ratified, it would effectively put us under international law when it comes to parenting our special needs children,” Santorum wrote in an email to Patriot Voices, the conservative outside group he founded “to protect faith, freedom.

The unsuccessful presidential hopeful continued, "If you haven't called your Senators to express your opposition to this treaty that threatens our national sovereignty and could interfere with the kind of care we give to our special needs kids, now is the time to do it.”

With nearly one billion people worldwide living with a disability, the purpose of the CRPD, or Disabilities Treaty, is to promote and protect the fundamental human rights and freedoms of persons with disabilities on a global scale -- just like its model, the Americans with Disabilities Act, which was signed into law by Republican President George H.W. Bush.

But Santorum and like-minded Republicans like Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) have argued that by signing on to the CRPD, the U.S. would sacrifice its sovereignty for international mandates that impose U.N. regulations on American parents.

“That is wrong and not something we should see in the United States of America,” Santorum wrote.

According to Patriot Voices, more than 17,000 emails have already been sent through PatriotVoices.com asking senators to vote against the CRPD. Yet Santorum and his conservative supporters at Patriot Voices also played a large role in defeating the passage of the CRPD nearly a year ago, in December 2012.

The U.N. treaty failed to garner enough votes last December due in part to the timing of the vote, during a lame duck session. Some Republicans voted against the treaty because they claimed parts of its language -- specifically the phrase “sexual and reproductive health” -- was a promotion of a global right to abortion.

That point was again debated in Tuesday's hearing, and several groups have launched fear campaigns around other claims. The Home School Legal Defense Association, for example, is alleging that the Disabilities Treaty would impose on parents’ ability to home school their children.

Yet, other Republican leaders have since shifted on the issue. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), the ranking Republican on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, is now "neutral," as he expressed during Tuesday's hearing -- despite voting against the treaty in 2012. Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) voted in favor of the CRPD in 2012 and has more explicitly expressed his support in passing the Disabilities Treaty the second time around.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), the chair of the Foreign Relations committee, appeared on MSNBC Tuesday morning to promote the CRPD.

“We’re just a few votes away," Menendez said on the status of the treaty.

"[CRPD] is about being able to create world leadership," he said, explaining, "so [people with disabilities] can have same accessibility standards ... all over the world."

In response to Republican opposition on the basis of an alleged sacrifice of U.S. sovereignty, Menendez argued that “the treaty does nothing to subvert American sovereignty; we’re already the gold standard in the world.”

He added that parents home schooling their children are “totally untouched by the treaty."

"This is not a valid concern," Menendez said.

In August, Secretary of State John Kerry released a video message advocating for the Disabilities Treaty.

“The Disabilities Treaty does not contain one single onerous mandate. There are no mandates. It simply says that other countries should do what we did 23 years ago when we set the gold standard and passed the Americans with Disabilities Act,” Kerry said. “Joining the Treaty won’t require one change to an American law, and it won’t infringe on the rights of parents to decide what’s best for their children ... Joining the Disabilities Treaty isn’t about changing American behavior. It’s about getting the rest of the world to raise their disability standards for the treatment of people with disabilities -- and raise them to our level. It’s that simple.”

Almost 160 nations have signed the treaty so far, with 138 countries having already ratified it.

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