March 6, 2013 (HLIWorldWatch.org) - Although the lofty treaties, speeches and other goings-on at the United Nations often seem irrelevant to parents with busy lives, it is increasingly important that we pay attention to some troubling developments that could gravely effect the lives of all U.S. citizens.
UN-generated treaties, resolutions and position papers tend to be written in a language that resembles English, with lofty themes and positive sounding proclamations of rights, considerations and resolutions. They also often contain language, however, that can be manipulated in ways that violate the core beliefs of a majority of Americans, and even our most basic rights. Also increasing are appeals to non-existent treaty “obligations,” that proponents of certain proposals use to bully governments into liberalizing laws against abortion or that protect the family.
Especially in consideration of the fact that the governing party of the nation and its allies in the media seem to speak more and more about getting “beyond the [U.S.] Constitution,” these trends deserve our attention.
One example of this trend can be found in a resolution entitled “Human Rights, Sexual Orientation, and Gender Identity,” passed by the Human Rights Council of the United Nations (UN). The resolution “Requests the High Commissioner to commission a study … to document discriminatory laws and practices and acts of violence against individuals based on their sexual orientation and gender identity.”
On the surface, this does not sound troubling. If anyone is suffering unjust discrimination, most people would support resolutions to remedy this injustice. It should be noted, though that the terms “sexual orientation” and “gender identity“ have no legal standing or definition.
But should certain persons enjoy special distinction or protection on the basis of how they decide to behave and identify themselves? That is, not based on gender or race, but on a felt disposition? This resolution has confused behavior with rights, and is designed to eclipse UN legal instruments that already protect all persons against discrimination and violence. Further, the study requested by the resolution went far beyond considerations of data related to violence. It recommended that nations change their laws on housing and employment, give the same legal rights to same-sex couples that heterosexual couples enjoy, and so on.
So the relatively innocuous-sounding language in the resolution was not only redundant, but also agenda-driven. The report commissioned by the resolution, which should have contained reasonable conclusions based on accurate data, was actually a starting point for advocacy in favor of homosexual “rights”, with research created to support the foregone conclusions.
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A second example may be found in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, or CRC. The U.S. has not ratified the CRC, although some in our government believe that we should. This document has positive elements, but in its positive aspects it breaks no new ground not already covered by existing UN legal instruments that protect the basic rights of all people. Many believed a child-specific document was necessary to underline the needs of the child, due to the special vulnerability of children, but the result has been to elevate children to the status of autonomous rights-holders, and to downplay the rights and obligations of parents regarding their own children.
The UN High Commissioner’s report dealing with the rights of children to access healthcare, which was based on her interpretation of the CRC itself, includes beneath welcome, if redundant, assurances of basic rights these curious passages:
“[T]he views of the child should always be heard and respected in abortion decisions, and this [should] be ensured by law and in practice.”
States should “review their legislation on abortion … including by ensuring that single adolescent mothers are allowed access to safe abortions….”
“ensure that there is no discrimination against these groups of children, including… children who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transsexual or intersex…”
The practical effect of such a document is to elevate the supposed rights – rights that are, to say the least, highly controversial – of children against their parents, weakening the role and rights of parents. Children do have rights, but most reasonable people believe that the rights and obligations of parents should be prior, due to the inherent immaturity of children.
It should also be noted that UN documents do not yet have the effect of changing laws in the United States, though it is clear that a growing coalition of “experts” believes that they should. Just last year, the UN Convention of the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), which is not considered to be as thorough as our own national disability laws, actually came before our Senate for ratification. Thankfully, it was not adopted by the Senate. The view that the American people, and not remote, unaccountable bureaucrats, should determine U.S. law still holds a majority.
Buried within a pile of innocuous proclamations, the CRPD declares that member governments should “Provide persons with disabilities … free or affordable health care … including in the area of sexual and reproductive health.”
Again, there is no opposition to providing affordable healthcare, especially for the disabled, though there is a just and robust debate over how best to achieve this worthy goal. But that altruistic suggestion extends to “sexual and reproductive health,” which within the UN system is understood to include contraception and abortion.
During 2006 negotiations, the U.S. delegation under the Bush administration insisted that abortion is not included in the definition of sexual and reproductive health, yet in 2010, the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated that “sexual and reproductive health” always includes abortion for purposes of U.S. policy abroad.
The effort to adopt CRPD in the U.S. Senate was led by then-Senator John Kerry, who is now the U.S. Secretary of State. It was defended on the Senate floor in part so that U.S. foreign policy could include attention to disability rights in other countries.
We can be grateful that the U.S. has not ratified the CRC or the CRPD, not because we believe that children and the disabled don’t have rights, but because we can see an obvious trend toward abusing the authority of the UN and the precedent of legitimate treaties to bypass the U.S. Constitution for the sake of promoting political agendas that the citizens of the U.S. do not support.
Regardless of how one feels about the specific issues addressed in these treaties, resolutions, and committee reports, we can all agree that UN overreach is to be rejected, especially when treaty language is misrepresented or concepts are pulled out of thin air and attributed to treaty obligations.
Although Americans may not have felt vulnerable to UN abuses in the past, we need to be aware of the ideology that seeks to circumvent U.S. law, and how it works. Even beyond last year’s attempt to adopt the CRPD in the Senate, the Supreme Court increasingly looks to international law and precedent. One of the two major U.S. political parties seems to see our Constitution as an obstacle to bringing about the kind of nation and world they would like to see. Whatever our political party, this should concern every one of us. Our representatives in Congress who are alert to this trend and who actively oppose it, such as Chris Smith (R-N.J.), deserve our thanks and support. We must hold our own congressional representatives accountable to protecting U.S. law, and our families, from the undue influence of unaccountable international bureaucrats.
Mary Langlois is the UN Liaison for Human Life International (HLI), and represents HLI as a pro-life advocate at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.