Special Advisor Judith Heumann Comments on the Disabilities Treaty as an Anti-Discrimination Treaty

February 15, 2020

MS. WOODRUFF: and this may be the last question – to a question that was raised in – again, in some
of the reading I did, from the critics, people who have been critical of the treaty until
now. They point out – they say that the treaty guarantees free or affordable access for people
with disabilities to, quote, “sexual and reproductive health and population-based public health
programs.” And they go on to say that this must mean
that the treaty encompasses abortion and enshrines abortion rights in international law. MS. HEUMANN: So let me say categorically that
this is an antidiscrimination treaty. It gives no new rights to people in the United States.
Abortion is not a part of the treaty. The word does not appear anywhere in the treaty. But if I could very briefly say the issue
of sexual and reproductive health came up in the treaty because many women with disabilities
who were participating in the discussions regarding the treaty being developed were
saying that as disabled women, they were being denied basic healthcare. So if they needed
to go to a healthcare clinic, it wasn’t accessible. They would go to a healthcare clinic and people
working in the clinic would say, “You have a disability. You’re not sexual. Therefore,
there’s no need for you to be tested for things like HIV/AIDS.” And we – that story was repeated and repeated.
So the use of that language really had nothing to do with the issue of abortion. The use
of that language also looked at things like women with disabilities not having to be forcibly
sterilized or to have abortions against their will, as we’ve seen in many countries around
the world. So if anything, it was to grant greater rights.

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