Conner Rousseau, president of the Flemish socialist party sp.a, has been defending a proposal to ban some parents from having children, made in a book published in December.
The suggestion went largely unnoticed, until it was picked up this week by the Sudinfo group of news media. This time the reaction has been more intense.
The idea, Rousseau explains, would be restricted to cases where simply being born would place the safety of the child in danger.
“Imagine a mother addicted to heroin, who continues to give birth to children, while the previous ones have been taken from her by a judge. Children who are sometimes born with problems linked to her addiction,” Rousseau told the VRT.
“I ask the question: should we not intervene? For the well-being of children in danger?”
For the French-speaking Ligue des familles, the answer is a resounding No. The proposal, the Ligue said, is “contrary to fundamental rights, unworthy, ineffective and impracticable”.
“Does the president of the sp.a intend to sterilise women against their will, force them to abort or force them to swallow the pill?,” a spokesperson asked Le Vif.
“These words are not serious, and yet the subject is serious. Yes, these parents and their children encounter significant difficulties, but they need adequate support. Conner Rousseau is confusing the fight against precarity and addiction with the fight against precarious families.”
In fact, as Rousseau explains in the book, he was not envisaging the use of force of any kind, but the use of sanctions. The crucial question concerned the right of a parent to have a child, compared to the right of a child to have a decent life.
“It is not not a question, therefore, of pointing the finger, but I have already seen too many children who have been left to their own devices. This is not a concrete proposal, but a call to think about it the problem,” he said in December.
The proposal is a revival of an idea first floated two years ago by Rouseau’s predecessor as party president, John Crombez.
“Some drug addicted mothers give birth to three or more children,” Crombez said at the time.
“As a society, we cannot continue to condone that,” adding later: “You should not say to people: ‘you cannot have children’. My suggestion is to say, in certain situations: ‘you are not doing well at all. We offer contraception until you are better’. If a woman gets pregnant, we will never say that she could not. We want to work on prevention.”