Kyle and her husband moved to Brookfield in 1986. She became active in local politics and started blogging in 2004. Her focus is primarily on local issues but often includes state and national topics, too. Kyle looks at things from the taxpayers' perspective in a creative, yet down to earth way, addressing them from a practical point of view.
UN Report: Belgium Dec. 15, 2008
Watching Out for Her Little Ones
Belgium and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
Winter is finally upon us, ushering in the joys of the holidays and, at least for most of the country, the arrival of cold weather. As the temperature falls and the days get shorter, Moms and Dads brace themselves for the first signs of inevitable winter sicknesses: everything from a simple cough and cold to wheezing, strep, and the dreaded stomach flu. For many Americans, the solution to these illnesses is a simple medication, or perhaps vaccination in certain cases, but the choice of proper treatment is left to the parents.
Now imagine a place where the government threatens parents with fines, or even jail time, if they refuse to vaccinate their children - all in the name of “watching out” for the best interests of “its” children. Imagine a country that permits doctors to terminate the lives of “deficient” children up to a year old, even without parental consent, for the sake of “a better society”. To find such a place, you need look no further than the nation of Belgium.
This Won’t Hurt a Bit . . .
In March 2008, Belgium made international headlines when it sentenced two sets of Belgian parents to five months in prison, and fined them 4,100 euros ($8,000).1 The crime? Failing to vaccinate their children against polio. The government, hiding behind privacy laws, declined to comment on why the parents had refused the vaccine in the first place, or how long a reprieve they had been given in which to comply before going to jail.2
Unlike the United States, which allows most parents to refuse vaccinations based on religious or philosophical objections, Belgian parents can only opt-out of vaccinations if they can prove that their child might have a bad physical reaction to the vaccine.3 In the absence of such proof, Belgian parents have no choice but to either consent to vaccinations, or accept the criminal punishments that accompany refusal.
Monitoring Their Education
According to the United Nations, Belgium has the best education system among all developed nations.4 The Belgian government is also deeply involved in education. Parents can place their children in community schools, or in public or private schools.5 Unlike their American counterparts, however, Belgium’s “private schools” are not strictly run by private individuals, but receive subsidies from the government, along with significant oversight from national and local education ministries.6 All schools - even within the home - are required to teach children “respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms and the cultural values of the child and others,” under Article 29 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.7 Public, private, and home schools are all inspected by the government to insure compliance, and disobedience could result in the children being placed in a school of the government’s choosing.8
Unfortunately, Belgians are discovering too late that it is difficult to rein in the government once it gains power in all schools. In September 2006, the town of Merchtem banned all persons in local schools from speaking French, even though the town is only nine miles from Brussels, a French-speaking metropolis.9 Anyone caught speaking anything other than Dutch on school premises - even parents picking up their children - is subject to reprimands.10 Parents are not even allowed to have parents’ meetings in their native language, but must use an interpreter instead.11
In 2008, the town of Liedekerke - also near Brussels - followed suit by banning French-speaking children from holiday outings.12 According to Marc Mertens, secretary of Liedekerke’s town council, public outings should have “a Dutch character,” and monitors should be able to “refuse children who ‘disturb’ the outings.” Of course, Mr. Mertens said, smiling, “one can understand ‘disturb’ in different ways.”13
Building a Better Society
The Belgian government’s authority over the health and education of
its children is deemed by many as a mark of progress toward a “better
society” where children’s rights are properly recognized and protected.
Those that satisfy the government’s standards live in peace. For the
rest, there is no peace, and sometimes, they are not even allowed to
Since 2002, Belgium has allowed doctors to terminate the lives of infants under the age of 12 months if they feel the baby is somehow disabled or deficient, and is likely to suffer in life as a result.14 More than half of the Belgian babies who die before they are a year old are killed by deliberate medical intervention.15 In 16% of cases, parental consent was not even considered.16 To put these numbers in perspective, the CIA World Fact Book estimates that roughly 106,000 babies are born in Belgium each year.17 Even using conservative estimates of Belgium’s rate of assisted-suicide in infants, one can estimate that some 470 children will die before they celebrate their first birthday. Of these 470, more than 200 will die not from natural causes, but from direct medical intervention. Forty (40) of them will die regardless of their parents’ wishes, objections, or pleadings. Such a program might produce a “better society,” but one is left in horror at the ultimate sacrifice of innocent babies.
Unfortunately, the program has been deemed so “successful” in Belgium that in March 2008, the government began considering legislation that would also make assisted-suicide available to teenagers and younger children who are terminally-ill.18
In Belgium’s Shadow
Although much of American society still largely resists government control of children and their families, shadows of Belgium’s pro-government approach are being cast upon our shores. In November 2007, parents in Prince George’s County, Maryland were shocked and outraged when they were ordered to take their children in for shots, or face fines and jail time.19 “Our goal is to get kids in school, not to put parents in jail,” said Glenn Ivey, the county’s attorney, “but if parents continue to be recalcitrant, they face up to 10 days in jail and a $50 a day fine.”
The drastic measures had parents and physicians up in arms. Dr. William Schaffner of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine described the county’s hard-nosed stance as “grabbing the parents by the collars and saying, ‘You must vaccinate your children.’”20 Dierdre Young, the mother of a high school freshman and junior, agreed: “What good are you going do if you lock up the parents? Then the parents can’t feed [their children]. They still can’t come to school. They still don’t have their shots. So what have you solved?”21
Someone in Belgium must have forgotten to ask that question.Notes
1. Maria Cheng, “Parents may be jailed over vaccinations,” The Associated Press (March 12, 2008) <http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080312/ap_on_he_me/polio_vaccine_prison> (accessed 03 December 2008).
2. Cheng 2008.
3. Cheng 2008.
4. AngloInfo.com, “Education and Schooling in Belgium” <http://belgium.angloinfo.com/countries/belgium/schooling.asp> (accessed 03 December 2008).
6. The United Nations Children’s Fund, “An overview of child well-being in rich countries: A comprehensive assessment of the lives and well-being of children and adolescents in the economically advanced nations,” Innocenti Report Cards, No. 7 (Jan. 2007): p. 34, 37. <www.unicef-irc.org/publications/pdf/rc7_eng.pdf> (accessed 03 December 2008).
7. Expatica.com, “Expats and home-schooling” (July 19, 2006)
<http://www.expatica.com/be/survival/education/expats-and-home-schooling-31671.html> (accessed 03 December 2008).
8. Expatica.com (2006).
9. BBC News, “Belgian town bans school French” (September 1, 2006) <http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/europe/5305484.stm> (accessed 03 December 2008).
10. BBC News (2006).
11. BBC News (2006).
12. Steven Erlanger, “Seams of Belgium’s Quilt Threaten to Burst,” New York Times (May 14, 2008) <http://www.nytimes.com/2008/05/14/world/europe/14belgium.html?partner=rssnyt&emc=rss&pagewanted=all> (accessed 03 December 2008)
13. Erlanger 2008.
14. Bruno Waterfield, “Teens need right to ‘medically assisted suicide’,” The Telegraph (UK) (March 26, 2008) <http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/belgium/1582882/Teens-need-right-to-%27medically-assisted-suicide%27.html> (accessed 03 December 2008).
15. Waterfield 2008.
16. Waterfield 2008.
17. Central Intelligence Agency, “The World Fact Book: Belgium” <https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/geos/be.html> (accessed 03 December 2008)
18. Waterfield 2008.
19. ABC News, “Md. Officials: Vaccinate Your Kids or Face Jail” (November 17, 2007) <http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/WaterCooler/Story?id=3880578&page=1> (accessed 03 December 2008).
20. ABC News 2007.
21. ABC News 2007.