Politician kicked out of German state parliament for bringing her baby
A politician was forced to leave a state parliament during a vote because she brought her baby, highlighting the difficulties faced by lawmakers with children.
Madeleine Henfling, a Green Party member of the state parliament of Thuringia in east-central Germany, tried to vote on Wednesday while carrying her 6-week-old baby.
Her participation would have taken a few minutes.
However, Christian Carius — Thuringia’s state parliament president — told Henfling that babies are not allowed in the plenary hall. The session was suspended for 30 minutes while the issue was discussed.
According to current Thuringian state law, babies and children are not specifically banned from being inside the state parliament.
Nonetheless, the parliamentary advisory committee ultimately decided that Henfling would not be allowed into the plenary hall to vote if she brought her baby with her.
“We have made an inquiry into whether or not children are allowed in the chamber, and this examination and a decision by the board of governors has shown that we believe that young children are not allowed in plenary and I would ask that we also, for reasons of child protection, follow these rules,” said Carius.
There are no childcare facilities at the Thuringia state parliament in Erfurt. When Henfling returned to parliament on Thursday, she brought her mother, who cared for the child while she participated in voting.
Regarding Carius’ decision, Henfling told CNN: “It’s a typical old man’s thinking. I know a lot of men who think differently than this. But for someone to say: You should just give your 6-week-child to a babysitter, especially if you are still breastfeeding them, that’s just not reality. Not for a mother. He doesn’t know what problems you have with a child. The easiest thing is really to take the child with you at this age because they sleep all the time.”
The Green Party is currently debating whether to take the case to court, arguing that Henfling was prevented from carrying out her elected duty.
Change is slow but coming
Politicians around the world have been praised in recent years as more and more lawmakers bring their children to work and breastfeed them.
Unnur Brá Konráðsdóttir, an Icelandic politician, captured headlines in 2016 when she breastfed her child during a debate on the proposed Foreigners Act.
In 2017, a 2-month-old baby — the newborn daughter of former Queensland senator Larissa Waters — became the first in Australia to be breastfed in the country’s parliament.
Australia had previously changed its parliamentary rules, allowing politicians to take their children into the chamber.
And in April in the United States, Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois made history when she became the first senator to cast a vote on the Senate floor with her newborn by her side.