Friday, February 18, 2011

Samuel is Going Home: Sweet, Sweet Victory

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I have just received news that the Belgian government has capitulated to the mounting, world-wide publicity that they were facing over their two years of stonewalling Laurent Ghilain and Peter Meurrens, regarding their two-year-old son. As recently as Tuesday the Belgian Foreign Ministry said they would appeal a court ruling saying they had to give Samuel a passport.

Samuel is the biological son of Laurent Ghilain conceived with the help of a surrogate. For two years the Belgian government has refused to issue a passport for Samuel saying they have no regulations regarding the practice of surrogacy.

Foreign Minister Steven Vanacker said that the government will grant a passport  for Samuel in accordance with the court ruling on Tuesday. I am unable to see any explanation for why the Minister has changed his mind in such a short time. I truly suspect that it was the efforts of many, many people contacting the Belgian government in protest and spreading the word.

When the Moorfield Storey Institute learned of the situation we created a Facebook page on the topic in English because the matter was receiving scant attention in the English-speaking world. In about a week's time over 600 people "liked" the page and 34,000 read the various posts concerning the case. An older page, in French has about 1200 members. A petition had been created regarding the case and we encouraged people to sign it. We also urged people to email their local Belgian consulate in protest and had begun a campaign to get major English media attention. A Wall Street Journal reporter contacted us regarding the case and we gave her the phone numbers for the couple. We also were urging people to contact Anderson Cooper at CNN to drum up his interest. And I recently wrote a piece on the case which I submitted to Huffington Post yesterday.

Vanacker's statement said he would comply but went into a lengthy justification for their actions in which he complained about the use of surrogates and that paying for surrogacy could lead to "commercial exploitation" and that "there are often intermediaries who grow rich in a scandalous way." There was no evidence of "exploitation" (however badly defined it might be by the ministry) and if intermediaries grow rich by helping people creates the families they desire, more power to them. I hope the more happiness they bring to others, the more they earn! I note that government officials seem to grow rich as well, but often by bringing misery and pain to others. So, this commentator, would take a intermediate in the surrogacy business over, say, a minister of foreign affairs, almost any day.

Laurant writes: "It's over... We won. There will be no appeal and Samuel will receive all the papers to bring him back next week. The administration will not delay they may be there next weekend. It is hard to believe. I am writing this post with tears in my eyes. Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone...really."

Helping do justice has never felt so good.

There is some dialogue from one of my favorite plays, The Winslow Boy by Terence Rattigan. The play was about a young Naval cadet accused of stealing a small sum of money, who was innocent. His family fights the entire British government to see to it the boy is exonerated, with everyone, including his barrister, paying a high price for it. When victory comes this dialogue takes place between Sir Robert Morton, the barrister, and Catherine Winslow, the boy's older sister.

Sir Robert Morton: I wept today because right had been done.
Catherine Winslow: Not justice?
Sir Robert Morton: No, not justice. Right. Easy to do justice Very hard to do right.

Today justice was done, but right was done as well.

Thank you to everyone who helped in this effort to unite this small boy with his fathers. The heroes are each person who took a few seconds to sign a petition or write an email. I have no doubt that the mounting outrage over this case, in the last few days, was a major reason that the Belgian government finally decided to do what was right.

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