Danish MP ordered to leave parliament for bringing five-month-old baby into chamber

Move sparked shock in Scandinavian country which is heralded as champion of gender equality

Maya Oppenheim
Women’s Correspondent
Wednesday 20 March 2019 12:52 GMT
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‘You are not welcome with your baby,’ speaker Pia Kjaersgaard reportedly told the MP
‘You are not welcome with your baby,’ speaker Pia Kjaersgaard reportedly told the MP (Getty)

A Danish politician has been ejected from parliament for bringing her five-month-old daughter into the chamber.

The move sparked shock in the Scandinavian country which is often heralded as a champion of women’s rights – with a report finding it the best country in the world for women to live in.

“You are not welcome with your baby in the parliament’s chamber,” Pia Kjaersgaard, the speaker who is a former leader of the far-right Danish People’s Party, reportedly told Mette Abildgaard.

Ms Abildgaard, a Conservative Danish MP, has now responded to the furore, explaining it was the first time she had brought her daughter to work, as the baby’s father could not step in to look after her.

“I didn’t ask for permission to bring her since I had previously seen another colleague bring a child into the chamber without any problems,” Ms Abildgaard, whose Conservative Party is part of the ruling centre-right coalition, said in a Facebook post which garnered more than 600 comments in the space of a few hours.

“I’ve never brought my daughter to parliament before, and it wasn’t the plan to do so today. But Jens Jacob [the father] couldn’t step in this time and shortly before the session I found out I had to vote,” she added.

The politician said she had agreed with her secretary that if the infant made “the slightest noise”, she would not take her into the chamber, but given her daughter was in a “good mood” she resolved to take her in.

Ms Kjaersgaard passed the message to an assistant who then asked Ms Abildgaard to remove the infant, Esther Marie, from the room. Ms Abildgaard handed the child to an assistant and went back to the chamber to vote.

“MPs should be in the chamber, not babies or children,” Ms Kjaersgaard said when questioned by reporters.

She said clearer guidelines should be given for MPs with children.

Denmark is famed for its generous welfare state – the nation has high taxes but receives social security, universal healthcare, and a universal pension in return.

The country is among the most generous providers of parental leave worldwide. New mothers are entitled to 18 weeks, with both parents entitled to a further 32 weeks which they can divide between them as they wish.

Ms Abildgaard said she had chosen to return to work “to serve democracy” in her Facebook post.

“A chamber that represents mothers, fathers and babies ought to be open to mothers, fathers and babies,” a commenter said.

This is not the first time a politician has been in the headlines for bringing a baby into the domain of politics. New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern made history by bringing her baby daughter into the United Nations assembly hall in September.

Ms Ardern, who gave birth while in office, could be seen playing with her three-month-old child before giving a speech at the Nelson Mandela peace summit in New York. Her partner Clarke Gayford held the baby on his lap while the world leader addressed the UN’s General Assembly.

Footage of Canadian minister Karina Gould breastfeeding her son in parliament went viral last year. And in 2016, an Icelandic politician made headlines after breastfeeding her six-week-old infant while speaking at the podium in parliament.

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