Sunday, September 24, 8am. Holding pamphlets in one hand and a slogan on our T-shirts, we headed off in the direction of Brussels-Central station and the Hilton Hotel. As in previous years the American group Men Having Babies choose this venue to promote their services. Yet again they had everything for those who long for children but lack eggs, uteruses, sperm and creativity on birth certificates.
Last year they tried to intimidate us when a critical blog post was seen by one of their business partners. This time around we decided not to attend the surrogacy fair. Instead we protested peacefully outside by handing out pamphlets to visitors who voluntary accepted it.
My husband and children joined the protest. For years they have been sitting in front row seats as witnesses of the injustice that is inflicted by the mass production of humans at the expense of those conceived. They share my belief that children should not be sold or separated from their biological families just because an adult wants a baby.
Another donor-conceived person joined us and we cheerfully handed out a few pamphlets. Some visitors took them; others refused. We saw some people behind the open window of the hotel looking and laughing at us. Some took pictures. It was the first sign that they were not happy with our presence. Not much later a couple of people came out of the hotel, asked for a flyer and immediately went back in.
Suddenly three workers for Men Having Babies appeared. Every visitor that had accepted our flyer whilst walking to the hotel was targeted. With plastic smiles and an overenthusiastic “So great to see you” and a “Let me take that from you”, the flyer was pulled out of their hands even before they even were aware it. The potential customer was then guided to join the rest of the herd in the lobby. Personally it reminded me the way Scientology people react when outsiders pose questions.
But that was not all. Not much later two police cars pulled up. Apparently MHB had told them that we aggressively had bothered the visitors by pushing the pamphlets in their hands. The police came to question us.
We explained them that we were protesting peacefully (the security cameras could prove it). The police said that we weren’t allow to protest because we didn’t have a permit.
Apparently permission to protest was only granted for Saturday even though the Surrogacy fair ran for the whole weekend. I replied that I had had been in touch with the Ministry of Justice, which had sent me a link so I could submit an official request. But the online tool didn’t work and I got an error-notification on the website.
I wasn’t going to allow the exercise of my constitutional right to depend on a non-functioning government website. I emailed the mayor of Brussels with our request. He didn’t respond — nor did he let us know that we weren’t allowed to protest. The police took down our passport numbers and we are now awaiting possible repercussions.
Isn’t it absurd that people who are protesting and trying to represent the voice of the innocent are at risk of prosecution and penalties, whilst 10 meters from that exact spot an event is taking place that not only promotes child trafficking but facilitates it?
And how distressing it is that politicians prefer to stick their heads in the sand and allow this kind of event to proceed. They should put a halt to it. From the moment that women and children are seen and treated as commodities, contributors and vessels, their integrity is at risk.
The aggressive response of Men Having Babies left a big impression on both of my children (aged 9 and 11). I have tried to explain them that this group doesn’t care about the consequences of their actions. They are just here to generate as much as profit as they can make. Every potential customer is worth another 30 to 100,000 euros. Ethics and respect disappear when money is at stake.
Stephanie Raeymaekers is the chair of Donorkinderen, a Belgian organisation that promotes cross-border registration of donors and the right of donor-conceived persons to know their parentage. The above article is reproduced from the Donorkinderen blog with her permission.