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Beneficiary birth control 'slippery rope to eugenics'

Published: 7:18AM Tuesday May 08, 2012 Source: ONE News

Critics say the Government's policy of free contraception for beneficiaries is insulting and amounts to social engineering.

The Government plans to offer free contraception to beneficiaries and their daughters as part of its $287.5 million budget for its controversial welfare reforms.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said $1 million will be spent on providing long-acting, reversible contraception, which will initially be for young people, but will then be rolled out to all beneficiaries.

However, former MP Sue Bradford slammed the move on Close Up tonight.

"I have issues with long-term reversible contraception for women beneficiaries, but now we discover it's not just the beneficiaries themselves but their daughters.

"I see it very much as the first step on a slippery rope to eugenics, where the state interferes with a woman's reproductive rights and our ability to control our reproduction."

Earlier today, the Prime Minister said the move is "pragmatic and common sense", and the contraception is "totally voluntary" and will help better educate women.

"We are seeing young people going on the DPB very early and staying on there for a very long period of time," he said.

"Ultimately if people have unplanned pregnancies and then are solely dependent on the state you the taxpayer has to pay for a long period of time for that dependency."

However, Bradford said most New Zealanders will find the policy of targeted free, long-term contraceptive, "abhorrent" and "intrusive".

Bradford, who is the spokeswoman for the Auckland Action Against Poverty Group, said the Government was persuading women to take contraception through sanctions and that women should have the right to control their own reproduction.

She said she has no problem with doctors and medical centres offering low cost birth control, but the problem starts when Work and Income gets involved.

"The problem is, in the department of Work and Income, when you're a beneficiary in there trying to get a benefit, trying to keep a benefit, you are totally at the mercy of those case officers," Bradford told Close Up tonight.

"There will be enormous pressure on women to go for this contraception.

"Steps like this are actually going down the direction of the Government saying 'well, if you're on a benefit and you get pregnant, you should have an abortion, you should have forced sterilization'. I know they haven't gone that far, but this is the first dangerous step on that road."

But former solo mum Sharon Wilson-Davis, who is also part of the welfare working group which came up with the policy, said that the Government has to act on the current statistics.

"For me in south Auckland, half of all teenage pregnancies are Maori and Pacifika, and 41% of DPB are Maori - I want to see a system based on investing in our people so that they can reach their full potential and we're not seeing that now," she told Close Up tonight.

Bennett: Let's get real here

Key said the subject of contraception will be raised by Work and Income case officers with women on benefits.

But Labour leader David Shearer echoed similar concerns about case managers putting pressure on women to take contraception.

"I think there is a risk of that and that is why I say it would very important for Paula Bennett to come out and say that this is between a woman and her doctor and not a case worker putting pressure on a beneficiary."

Bennett said the Government's intention is not to pressure anyone or make any judgements on who should or should not have children.

"But let's get real here and talk about how we plan our families and how we can afford them and if that's a slightly uncomfortable conversation for some tough luck."

Bennett told TV ONE's Breakfast the contraception is "not compulsory".

She said Pharmac fully fund a lot of contraceptive methods, but there is still a cost and that is seen as a barrier.

"We'll pay for the doctor's visit and the cost of the contraceptive itself where the cost is not fully funded by Pharmac," she said.

Shearer said the move targets beneficiaries but access to contraception should be across the board.

Family Planning chief executive Jackie Edmond said the cost of contraception has often been a barrier for beneficiaries wanting contraception, so it is good more choice will now be available.

The first Bill in the welfare reforms is before select committee and takes effect from July.

The second Bill, focusing on fraud clamp-down and benefit categories overhaul, will be introduced this year and is due to take effect from mid-2013.

Mixed reactions

Some of the beneficiaries that ONE News spoke to expressed mixed reactions concerning the move.

Beneficiary and mother of one Sherez Tohu believes the Government's making big assumptions about all beneficiaries.

"(The government is assuming) that we are dumb that, we are stupid, that we don't know what we are doing, that we just open our legs for whatever man comes along, and it's not like that - I planned my daughter," she told ONE News.

"I have tried to find work. I have really tried, but there is no point (in) the Government trying to take away me having another baby just because I can't find work."

One beneficiary told ONE News she may have made different choices if she had been offered free contraception.

"I actually think it is a good idea 'cause you know younger people do need that choice." 

Despite the heated debate, the general consensus appears to be that all women, not just beneficiaries, should be offered free contraception.

Do you back the free birth control plan? Have your say on the messageboard below.

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  • berniekim said on 2012-05-09 @ 09:13 NZDT: Report abusive post

    You are so right suzeO. If a woman has a baby while on a benefit then why should the taxpayer be paying for it. i am sick and tired of listening to the Greens and Labour trying to protect beneficiaries and at the same time going on about poverty and yet they are advocating for these same women to continue to have children while on a benefit. i wish for once they decide whether they want people to get out of poverty or continue to languish in poverty on a benefit because of having more children.

  • Inamay said on 2012-05-09 @ 07:52 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Teaching Morals alone would not fix this problem in it's current stage, it's a bit late for that to work by itself. Contraception should be compulsory for at risk 16 - 20 year old females, as for this causing the problem to get worse; scientifically impossible..also statistically in-probable. Also marriage should not be the key here it should be love..friendship.. stability. with this and only this can you bring up good healthy and successful children.

  • SuzeO said on 2012-05-08 @ 16:47 NZDT: Report abusive post

    This idea will not work on career beneficiaries. The only way to prevent people on benefits breeding indiscriminately is to not pay them any more for subsequent children whilst on benefits. I have no problem with someone making a mistake and needing a helping hand but have major problems with someone making a tactical choice to continually have more children and expecting the rest of us to pay for them. Free birth control should be compulsory not voluntary.

  • LuciaMaria said on 2012-05-08 @ 16:27 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Contraception increases promiscuity and will ensure more babies are born to beneficiaries, not less. This is because even long term contraception is not fool-proof in young, healthy females. We keep throwing contraception at women and the out of wedlock birthrate continues to climb... will we ever learn?

  • Marjorie Dawe said on 2012-05-08 @ 16:13 NZDT: Report abusive post

    Free birth control should be available but there should never be a hint of coercion. As Scubyw said it needs to be a CHOICE. Perhaps there should be information about this entitlement in public places and it should not be a part of an interview with a case worker at WINZ because there is an imbalance of power within that relationship. I am also looking forward to the voucher system showing how inadequate the residual amount left for food vouchers will be.