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Danish politician Mette Abildgaard with her baby daughter. (Facebook)
Danish politician Mette Abildgaard with her baby daughter. (Facebook)

Ousted

Denmark, home of the year-long parental leave policy, boots a baby from Parliament

By WITW Staff on March 22, 2019

Danish legislator Mette Abildgaard, 30, has spoken out in protest after she was forced to remove her baby daughter from Parliament at the request of Pia Kjaersgaard, 72, the country’s first female speaker of Parliament.

In a Facebook post, Abildgaard wrote that she had no choice but to take the infant to work with her because of a surprise vote that gave her no time to find child care. She said that the baby made no noise and was calmly sucking on a pacifier, but still managed to draw Kjaersgaard’s ire, who upbraided her and declared the baby “unwanted” in the chamber. Kjaersgaard’s actions were unnecessary, Abildgaard said, especially since she had already instructed her secretary to remove the child if she begin to make a fuss.

“We obviously did not want to disturb the meeting!” wrote Abildgaard.

The Danish parliament has no official regulations regarding children in the chamber, and in 2016 the Liberal Alliance’s Laura Lindahl brought her own daughter to a Parliament meeting without objection from the acting speaker. Kjaersgaard, a founder of the right-wing Danish People’s Party — best known for its anti-immigration policies — defended her decision on Tuesday in a Twitter post. Characterizing the incident as a minor issue, she claimed that she “quietly” had a secretary tell Abildgaard that “it’s not good” to bring babies to Parliament.

Denmark is known for its progressive politics and has many national policies aimed at fostering a healthy parenting culture, including some of the world’s most generous parental leave laws. But many parents don’t take full advantage of those laws, which has led to debates about whether official policies are sometimes outmatched by cultural and economic pressures.

The question of whether babies should be allowed in legislative chambers has come up repeatedly in recent years, with some women legislators arguing that disallowing it can pose an undue burden on working parents. New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who became the second elected world leader to give birth while in office last June, made headlines when she brought her infant with her to the U.N. General Assembly in September. And in April, the U.S. Senate unanimously voted to allow babies onto the Senate floor after Sen. Tammy Duckworth, the first sitting senator to give birth, objected to having to choose between caring for her daughter or being present for votes.

Read the full story at the New York Times.

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