Baby hatch reinstated in Brussels after three-year dispute

Baby hatch reinstated in Brussels after three-year dispute
The baby hatch currently in use in Antwerp. © Belga

A baby hatch installed in Evere, one of the communes of Brussels, may come back into use after being banned by the then-mayor in 2017, the Council of State has ruled.

A baby hatch, the modern equivalent of the revolving foundling wheel of the Middle Ages, is intended to allow mothers in despair to drop off their newborn baby somewhere that is not only safe and warm but also supervised.

The device consists of a hatch and a drawer where the baby can be left, and which sends a signal to the organisation that installed it.

A baby hatch set up by the Antwerp organisation Moeders voor Moeders (Mothers for Mothers) has been used 18 times since it was installed in 2000.

The Evere hatch was installed by the non-profit Corvia, which works with the disadvantaged, at the beginning of 2017. Almost immediately, the then-mayor, Pierre Muylle (PS), issued an order banning the baby hatch, arguing that it would encourage women to abandon their babies, which is against the law.

The organisation took the case to the Council of State, whose role is to scrutinise decisions made by governments at all levels, from municipal to federal.

Corvia does not want to incite child abandonment at all, but wants to offer mothers who in desperation want to leave their newborn behind, the possibility to put their children in a place of safety,” the non-profit association told Bruzz at the time.

The Council of State has now given its ruling, overturning the original ban.

Corvia now intends to meet with the sitting mayor, Ridouane Chahid (PS), with a view to re-opening the baby hatch. The new mayor has shown himself more positive towards the idea.

I'd rather have a child end up in a place where it has a future than be left behind somewhere. But we will first have to see if we can find a legal way to do this,” he said.

That would include, he said, consultations with the two agencies charged with the interests of children, Kind & Gezin for the Flemish community and the Office de la Naissance et l'Enfance for the French community.

Corvia is cautiously optimistic.

We were proved right, and we can open up,” a spokesperson said.

We are delighted to be able to give these children a future. But I will wait for the consultation with the mayor before making any further statements. In any case, I have the feeling that the new mayor is willing to take the initiative.”

Alan Hope

The Brussels Times

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