BUENOS AIRES - B.M. is a year and a half old. The cups and paper napkins on the coffee table interest her far more than the rubber ducky her parents offer. The coffee table commotion ends with a baby bottle, a pacifier, and a small nap in the arms of mamá.
The three of them (mom, dad, and baby) are happy, radiant. Of course they are: last month, the legal battle ended that now allows these parents to finally register the birth of the baby as their own. It is the first court ruling ever on "surrogate motherhood" in Argentina, a relationship that has now been incorporated to the new Civil Code, which is still awaiting approval.
As it turns out, B.M. grew in the womb of her mother’s friend who'd selflessly volunteered to gestate the couple’s embryo.
Up until now, Argentine families had to rely on finding surrogate mothers in other countries with specific legislation that recognized the process. Never before had Argentina's justice system intervened in a case of a baby conceived in a substitute womb, ordering the registration of the child as the biological parents’ given that the couple’s egg and sperm were used in the procedure.
After baby’s DNA was tested to confirm the biological relation, Judge Carmen Bacigalupo granted the couple with the recognition of full parenthood status in the place of the surrogate. Now the baby has a birth certificate and her National Identity Document.
Juan De Gregorio, 44, and Maica Moraes, 40, got married in 2006. Ever since, they wanted to make their dream come true to have a baby. But two pregnancies ended in miscarriage, with the second one reaching six months and the fetus lost in a delicate intervention in which Maica was forced to have her uterus removed. And though she was able to keep her ovaries, her chances to give birth became null. They thought about adoption. They signed up for it. They were told: “We may call you in months, years, or never...”
In vitro fertilization was the only option they had left. This meant joining Maica's eggs with her husband’s sperm and then transferring the embryo to a surrogate womb. They looked into international surrogacy, but later gave up due to its high cost.
An "incredible" offer
Then, one day, came an altruistic proposal. Maica’s friend, a divorced woman of about 40 years old and mother to two teenagers, offered to be a surrogate. “It’s incredible how help can come from the most unexpected places,” Juan explained to Clarín. His eyes water along with Maica’s, and Fabiana Quani’s, the international family law expert who advised the family on all related legal matters.
The presentation and appeal for the authorization to register the baby as their own was based on Article 19 of the Constitution, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the San José Pact of Costa Rica, and the not-yet-approved bill to reform the Civil and Commercial Code.
Maica remembers when her friend said: I’ll lend you my belly. “I laughed," says Maica. "I never thought she could have been serious.”
The conversation continued a month later. They thought about it time and time again. Each one analyzed the possiblity with a psychologist, until they finally made the decision. Then came the consultations with professionals, the hormone treatments for both women, the formation of embryos in the laboratory -- in 48 hours, with no previous freezing -- and the moment when three embryos were inserted in the surrogate’s womb.
“We prefered three instead of one,” Maica explains. One of them started to grow. In April 2012, B.M. was born by C-section in an Argentinian hospital. She weighed 3 kilos (6.6 lbs). Maica and Juan witnessed the birth of their child with great emotion. Even the anesthesiologist’s eyes watered. A dream had come true, a dream that now has the official stamp of the nation's justice system.
A neo-Nazi has been buried in the former grave of a Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender – not an oversight, but a deliberate provocation. This is just one more example of antisemitism on the rise in Germany, and society's inability to respond.
BERLIN — If you want to check the state of your society, there's a simple test: as the U.S. High Commissioner for Germany, John Jay McCloy, said in 1949, the touchstone for a democracy is the well-being of Jews. This litmus test is still relevant today. And it seems Germany would not pass.
Incidents are piling up. Most recently, groups of neo-Nazis from across the country traveled to a church near Berlin for the funeral of a well-known far-right figure. He was buried in the former grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender, a gravesite chosen deliberately by the right-wing extremists.
The incident at the cemetery
They intentionally chose a Jewish grave as an act of provocation, trying to gain maximum publicity for this act of desecration. And the cemetery authorities at the graveyard in Stahnsdorf fell for it. The church issued an immediate apology, calling it a "terrible mistake" and saying they "must immediately see whether and what we can undo."
There are so many incidents that get little to no media attention.
It's unfathomable that this burial was allowed to take place at all, but now the cemetery authorities need to make a decision quickly about how to put things right. Otherwise, the grave may well become a pilgrimage site for Holocaust deniers and antisemites.
The incident has garnered attention in the international press and it will live long in the memory. Like the case of singer-songwriter Gil Ofarim, who recently claimed he was subjected to antisemitic abuse at a hotel in Leipzig. Details of the crime are still being investigated. But there are so many other incidents that get little to no media attention.
The grave of Jewish musicologist Max Friedlaender
Crimes against Jews are rising
Across all parts of society, antisemitism is on the rise. Until a few years ago, Jewish life was seen as an accepted part of German society. Since the attack on the synagogue in Halle in 2019, the picture has changed: it was a bitter reminder that right-wing terror against Jewish people has a long, unbroken history in Germany.
Stories have abounded about the coronavirus crisis being a Jewish conspiracy; meanwhile, Muslim antisemitism is becoming louder and more forceful. The anti-Israel boycott movement BDS rears its head in every debate on antisemitism, just as left-wing or post-colonial thinking are part of every discussion.
Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
Since 2015, the number of antisemitic crimes recorded has risen by about a third, to 2,350. But victims only report around 20% of cases. Some choose not to because they've had bad experiences with the police, others because they're afraid of the perpetrators, and still others because they just want to put it behind them. Victims clearly hold out little hope of useful reaction from the state – so crimes go unreported.
And the reality of Jewish life in Germany is a dark one. Sociologists say that Jewish children are living out their "identity under siege." What impact does it have on them when they can only go to nursery under police protection? Or when they hear Holocaust jokes at school?
Germany needs to take its antisemitism seriously
This shows that the country of commemorative services and "stumbling blocks" placed in sidewalks as a memorial to victims of the Nazis has lost its moral compass. To make it point true north again, antisemitism needs to be documented from the perspective of those affected, making it visible to the non-Jewish population. And Jewish life needs to be allowed to step out of the shadows.
That is the first thing. The second is that we need to talk about specifically German forms of antisemitism. For example, the fact that in no other EU country are Jewish people so often confronted about the Israeli government's policies (according to a survey, 41% of German Jews have experienced this, while the EU average is 28%). Projecting the old antisemitism onto the state of Israel offers people a more comfortable target for their arguments.
Our society needs to have more conversations about antisemitism. The test of German democracy, as McCloy called it, starts with taking these concerns seriously and talking about them. We need to have these conversations because it affects all of us. It's about saving our democracy. Before it's too late.
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