The Government is planning to offer free long-term contraception for beneficiaries and their daughters. It’s a politically complex and explosive topic. I for one have very mixed feelings about it. First I’ll be clear. If there is any hint of compulsion in this scheme – ANY hint at all – then I’m opposed. Completely and utterly opposed, and prepared to call it eugenics. Unfortunately for the Nats, the current proposals come with that baggage. From June last year:
Bennett: No compulsory contraception for now
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett is “a big fan” of long acting contraception for solo mums but says her Government is “not quite” at the stage of making it compulsory.
I reacted in the strongest terms I could to that “testing the waters” on compulsion. I remain utterly opposed to it of course.
Now here we are with the current offer, free long-term contraception for beneficiaries and their daughters. In some respects its a perfectly sensible plan, remove the price barrier to women asserting control of their own fertility. Who could argue with that? The problem is that a perfectly sensible plan comes wrapped in two layers of baggage. First, it’s from the same Nats who last year were speculating about compulsion, so it has to be seen as the thin end of a wedge. And second, it targets one sector of the community only, and therefore carries an implied stigma. So, naturally, there is resistance:
Beneficiary contraception plan ‘intrusive’
The Government’s plan to offer free long-term contraception for beneficiaries and their daughters is being labelled as an insult and intrusive to women’s right to have children.
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett yesterday said contraception would eventually be fully funded for female beneficiaries and their 16 to 19-year-old daughters. …
Auckland Action Against Poverty spokeswoman Sue Bradford this morning said while the contraception was voluntary, it was “totally unacceptable” for the Government to get involved in women’s reproduction. “Most New Zealand women will not accept that. It’s because beneficiaries are seen as people who are worth less than others,” she said.
Bradford said the Government was persuading women to take contraception through sanctions, such as having beneficiaries who have an additional child on the benefit to look for work when that child was one. “We believe that women in this country have the right to control their own reproduction,” she said.
At one level the proposal does exactly what Bradford demands. It gives (some) women “the right to control their own reproduction” – of course that’s a good idea (for individuals, societies, and the environment). The problem is the baggage, as outlined above, and that is what opponents to the scheme are reacting to. No way round it – the Nats have muddied the waters too badly, they can’t make this proposal with any credibility. What a mess. The only way out I can see is to offer free contraception to everyone, with no strings of ANY kind attached.