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Groups say UN treaty on disability rights could hurt parents

Joni and Friends, a Christian outreach ministry for the disabled founded more than 30 years ago, has formally announced its opposition to a United Nations disability treaty up for ratification by the U.S. Senate.

People with disabilities or parents of children with disabilities in Illinois and throughout the U.S. could be affected by the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. While Joni and Friends noted the treaty could provide benefits for the disabled -- benefits as basic as promoting the human dignity of people with disabilities -- the organization feels the potential negative outcomes outweigh the positive ones. Specific concerns include the treaty's language regarding parental rights and the rights of the unborn with disabilities.

Joni and Friends is not alone in its opposition. Another group expressing concerns is the Home School Legal Defense Association. Like Joni and Friends, the HSLDA stated concerns about the treaty infringing on parental rights. More specifically, they are concerned if the treaty is ratified, it could allow "unelected bureaucrats" to make decisions they feel are in the best interest of a child, when that power should otherwise belong to the child's parents.

Conservative groups are also coming forward in opposition of the treaty, which has already been ratified by 115 other countries, saying the language of the treaty includes a reference to "sexual and reproductive health" which may be interpreted as the right to abortion. It is because of this wording that The Vatican has refused to sign the treaty.

The chief complaint seems to be that the treaty would take decision-making regarding U.S. citizens out of their own hands or the hands of the U.S. government. Proponents, however, argue that the treaty will protect the rights of Americans traveling abroad.

Custody issues are difficult enough when a child or a parent has no disability. A physical or cognitive disability adds a layer of complexity to how families and the law address custody disputes. The hope for any international accord would be that families would know what to expect and how to protect their rights when traveling or living abroad.

Source: World Magazine, "Disabilities group opposes UN treaty," J.C. Derrick, Nov. 17, 2012

We help families work out arrangements that are in the best interests of the child and tackle challenges that can arise when a parent or child has a disability. If you would like to learn more about our Libertyville, Illinois, practice, please visit our child custody page.

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