Friday night on CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360,” Cooper welcomed Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) to discuss Lee’s vote against the United Nations treaty for the “Rights of Persons with Disabilities.” Cooper questioned why Republicans are so dead set against a treaty that would ultimately have no power over established U.S. laws.
“Senator, you said this treaty will somehow change U.S. law or could change U.S. law,” Cooper said. “Former Republican Attorney General Dick Thornburgh, who helped negotiate this treaty on behalf of President George W. Bush said emphatically it would have no effect on U.S. law, not now, not ever. Is he wrong?”
“Well, I respectfully disagree with the former Attorney General’s conclusions,” Lee said. “I look at the treaty and I see one provision that arguably sets in place international entitlement rights. Another provision that can be read to undermine the rights of parents to make decisions on how best to educate and otherwise care for their children with disabilities.” Lee argued that another provision could force the U.S. government to provide abortions.
“You’re just interpreting things,” Cooper said. “It doesn’t use the word ‘abortion.’ It just basically says that disabled people should have the same access to health care that other people have, that non disabled people have overseas.”
Lee countered that the treaty uses the phrase “reproductive rights,” which he said “has been interpreted to include abortion.”
“But this treaty states that it’s not self-executed,” said Cooper, meaning that it doesn’t create legal obligations to be resolved in U.S. courts.
“The fact that it may be non-self-executing, Anderson, doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have any effect at all,” Lee insisted.
“Can you name any other U.N. treaty that has forced changes in U.S. law?” Cooper asked.
Lee could not, admitting, ”I didn’t come prepared to cite Supreme Court precedent on this point but it’s a well known fact that once you ratify a treaty…”
“But what you’re saying is totally hypothetical,” Cooper broke in. “You’re using a bunch of hypotheticals saying they’re going to — this is going to force abortion rights for disabled people overseas, some groups are saying children with glasses are going to be taken from their parents, you’re using all these very scary hypotheticals — you cant even cite one case where a U.N. treaty has impacted U.S. law?”
Cooper went on to say that Lee has been arguing against the treaty on the floor of the Senate, that he’s had “weeks and weeks” to prepare his argument, but he can’t cite a single case where an international treaty has overridden U.S. law.
“You can’t assume that because something hasn’t happened already that it couldn’t happen in the future,” Lee replied.
Watch the video, embedded via CNN, below: