Home School Lobby, Bob Dole to Battle Over Disabilities Treaty

Image: Home School Lobby, Bob Dole to Battle Over Disabilities Treaty Former Kansas Sen. Bob Dole. (John Sleezer/ MCT / Landov)

Tuesday, 22 Jul 2014 10:48 AM

By Andrea Billups

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Bob Dole, disabled after injuries he sustained in World War II, is in round two of a battle for U.S. ratification of an international disability treaty: the U.N. Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), Politico reported.

Dole finds himself facing off against the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). The group's leader, Mike Farris, and his engaged advocates have stymied U.S. support of such a measure. They contend it could restrict the rights of parents with disabled children and also serve to threaten states' rights along with providing a legal crutch that could help pro-choice supporters to fight tough abortion laws, according to Politico.

Farris is a formidable foe — Dole himself called the HSLDA leader "quite a machine" — and he successfully fought off a similar challenge in 2012, when a Senate vote on the measure failed, rallying prominent conservatives to his cause.

Now, the measure is back for consideration again, and disability advocates argue it is time for the United States to sign on with the rest of the world.

"Not being at the table as a ratified country is missing an important opportunity," David Morrissey, executive director of the U.S. International Council on Disabilities, told Politico. Joining Dole to champion the issue are a bipartisan group of senators, U.N. Ambassador Samantha Power, and more than 700 groups representing those with disabilities, veterans, and businesses, according to Politico.

Farris, who continues his opposition, is urging his supporters to oppose ratification. He testified last year before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and HSLDA Director of Federal Relations Will Estrada has encouraged his group to pay attention.

"HSLDA strongly supports laws like the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, and other laws which have made the United States the world leader for ensuring the freedom and dignity of people with disabilities," Estrada wrote on the group's website.

"But we reject any attempt to ratify a United Nations treaty which would threaten our nation's sovereignty and threaten the ability of parents, not government bureaucrats, to care for their children with disabilities," Estrada wrote.

Dole contends a recent Supreme Court decision in Bond v. United States has clarified the scope of international treaties and their power, paving the path for the treaty to pass, although it faces an uphill battle in the Senate, Roll Call reported.

"The Supreme Court has spoken, and it is clear that the Bond case is no impediment to the ratification of the CRPD," Dole said, according to Roll Call. "In fact, the Supreme Court has given the Senate a blueprint on how to write a treaty to maintain the balance of powers between the federal government and the states in our federalist system."

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