The Lady Garden

Tea and Strumpets

The War on Women hits New Zealand

There I was, watching Newt Gingrich losing his shit in the Republican primaries, calling women sluts, and wryly smiling about the infamous all-male panel on contraception. I fell in love with Obama all over again. And I was all smugly, well, we women in New Zealand are so lucky, with our relatively easy and cheap access to contraception.

Aren’t we? AREN’T WE? Yeah, well, until the Government comes along and decides that it doesn’t like poor women, and their grubby little oiks, and so it’ll Put A Stop To That.

Now, if you follow me on Twitter, you may know that this has made me very caps-locky, swearingly, rantingly angry. I will try to be slightly more reasoned here, but I can’t promise this post won’t descend into me ANGRILY BANGING MY HEAD AGAINST THE KEYBOARD.

So. Some thoughts.

1. Why is this even a welfare issue?

Yes, all women should have access to safe and cheap contraception. And the way we know how we’re getting safe contraception is by talking about it with our doctors. Not our WINZ case managers. In fact, via Nikki:

In making an informed decision about contraceptive use and choice of method, all
women, including young women, must be provided with full and unbiased information about all of their options, including the expected risks, side effects, benefits and costs. This is provided for under rights six and seven of the Code of Health and Disability Services Consumer Rights.” From Women’s Health Action‘s paper on welfare reform

So, why is this coming from welfare? Why is Paula Bennett not involved? (If you think you can stomach listening to her, she is here. TLG is not responsible for any damage to your desk or computer from the repeated head-banging.)

Because why? Because poor women are bad and evil and shouldn’t be costing the taxpayer more than they already are! God. Why are they even pretending this is about contraception? It’s about pretending to save money and stopping poor people from having more babies. Because I don’t know if you got the memo? But poor people are bad.

Will WINZ staff be educated in contraception, and advising people on how to get it and what they might need? Will it be explained what an IUD id, and how it works, and what the benefits and side effects might be?

Let’s be clear. If we actually want to do this, to increase access to contraception – especially for young people – then it should be universal, available to any gender, and not based on income.

2. Oh, but come on, aren’t you laydeez overreacting? “Being able to access” is not the same as “have to use”.

Well, first of all, we’re not talking about condoms here, sunshine, we’re talking about long-term IUDs and hormonal implants. So, this has long-lasting effects for the women who choose to “access” it. Five years is a long time, particularly in a woman’s reproductive life.

Secondly, if you don’t think WINZ staff would ever pressure someone into doing something like this, then you’ve never been on a benefit. WINZ staff are required to push policies like this. If you don’t think WINZ staff intimidate and coerce their clients, you are remarkably naive.

And thirdly? What’s to stop them, in a year, turning around and saying – you didn’t take the opportunity for the contraception, so we’re docking your benefit. Oh, you got pregnant while you were still on a benefit, so we’re going to punish you by making you go back to work early. OH WAIT. THEY ALREADY DID THIS.

Being on a benefit isn’t a measure of how clever or moral someone is, and this policy is fucking patronising. Nor, given the fact it will be aimed at women and their children, is it hereditary.

3. Um, there’s this other person involved? I think he’s called Dad.

(Big sloppy kiss to whoever can tell me where I stole that line from.)

Why is this being aimed at women? Why are free vasectomies not being handed out? Or giant bowls of condoms on the front desk at every WINZ branch?

Is it really appropriate for a government to target young women for long-term contraception? If the Government really wants to address these issues, why is it not putting money into much more comprehensive sex education, better, cheaper and easier access to healthcare, and many, many more employment options? Or is that just not punitive enough?

This is only scratching the surface – have at it in the comments. And Deborah has a great post at her place.

 

26 responses to “The War on Women hits New Zealand

  1. Deborah May 8, 2012 at 11:22 am

    I was about to cross-post my piece here, but this is a great post… so I don’t want to duplicate it.

    Ummm…. anyone else catching a whiff of racism in all this too? I’m not sure what the ethnic breakdown w.r.t. the DPB is, but I think, off hand, that there are proportionately more Maori women and Pacific Island women using it. I think there are overtones of stopping all those brown people from breeding in it all.

    • tallulahspankhead May 8, 2012 at 12:07 pm

      I’m really wary of making that leap. But yes. I think you’re right.

      To March 2012, Maori made up just over 42% of DPB recipients, and Pacifika people just over 10%.

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  3. Psycho Milt May 8, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    There’s something weird about watching supposedly liberal people get all irate about the govt subsidising contraception. This is something the govt should be doing more of, not less, ie your point number 3.

    Re your questions:
    Why is this even a welfare issue?
    Because children born to single mothers on welfare are at way higher risk of various forms of unpleasantness than others. As the funding provider, there’s an obligation on govts to try and address that – there’s plenty of room for disagreement about means of doing it, but the obligation is clear enough.

    Will WINZ staff be educated in contraception, and advising people on how to get it and what they might need?
    No need for it. As Toad pointed out on Kiwiblog, WINZ will already fund a pregnancy termination, and I doubt many of its staff are qualified to advise on that either. That’s why we have clinics.

    Well, first of all, we’re not talking about condoms here, sunshine, we’re talking about long-term IUDs and hormonal implants.
    Cost-benefit ratio – much cheaper to fund long-lasting methods, and it’s the user’s choice whether that’s too long for them or not.

    Secondly, if you don’t think WINZ staff would ever pressure someone into doing something like this, then you’ve never been on a benefit.
    In my experience WINZ staff are generally more interested in pressuring people not to do things the govt will have to fund.

    And thirdly? What’s to stop them, in a year, turning around and saying – you didn’t take the opportunity for the contraception, so we’re docking your benefit.
    The fact that it would be coercion and a serious breach of the BoR, for one. It would be challenged in the courts and won, to the govt’s great detriment. I find it hard to picture a govt deciding to dip itself in that much shit.

    Oh, you got pregnant while you were still on a benefit, so we’re going to punish you by making you go back to work early.
    Most people don’t consider working for their income to be a “punishment.” There are reasons for anger about National’s plans to make people on the DPB hunt for jobs that aren’t there and childcare they can’t afford, but working for a living being a “punishment” isn’t one of them.

    Why is this being aimed at women?
    That’s something it would be nice to see Bennett and Key being made to squirm over by the nation’s media, but I won’t hold my breath.

    Why are free vasectomies not being handed out?
    Another good question. But, given that you’re outraged at the prospect of women being offered a contraceptive that lasts a few years, presumably you’d be incandescent with rage at men being offered what’s effectively a permanent contraceptive…

    • nikkitheknitter May 8, 2012 at 1:50 pm

      Psychomilt,
      The government *should* be subsidising more contraception, yes, but it’s uncomfortable as hell when it’s in a package of policy designed to further marginalise poor women. We’ve been around long enough to see these kind of policies progress further and further into reproductive rights in the US/Canada/Australia so don’t pretend that’s not what’s at stake here.

      Re your answers to Talullah’s questions
      Because children born to single mothers on welfare are at way higher risk of various forms of unpleasantness than others. As the funding provider, there’s an obligation on govts to try and address that – there’s plenty of room for disagreement about means of doing it, but the obligation is clear enough.
      The action question is why is CONTRACEPTION part of welfare policy? It’s insidious as hell being couched in policies that are designed to punish poor people from breeding.

      No need for it. As Toad pointed out on Kiwiblog, WINZ will already fund a pregnancy termination, and I doubt many of its staff are qualified to advise on that either. That’s why we have clinics.
      Where is there the policy that says that WINZ will fund pregnancy terminations? They didn’t have fuck all to do with mine. The funding comes under DHBs, I thought. And if there’s coercion to terminate pregnancies by WINZ staff like the risk there is of coercing people to use LARCs then let me at them!

      Cost-benefit ratio – much cheaper to fund long-lasting methods, and it’s the user’s choice whether that’s too long for them or not.
      And that’s fine and dandy as other methods are already funded but we’re talking about contraceptive options that have more risks attached to them as well as the methods in question NOT BEING RECOMMENDED for young and single women.

      In my experience WINZ staff are generally more interested in pressuring people not to do things the govt will have to fund.
      So you’re saying that WINZ won’t pressure young women to take up LARCs? I disagree.

      The fact that it would be coercion and a serious breach of the BoR, for one. It would be challenged in the courts and won, to the govt’s great detriment. I find it hard to picture a govt deciding to dip itself in that much shit.
      I really hope you’re right.

      Most people don’t consider working for their income to be a “punishment.” There are reasons for anger about National’s plans to make people on the DPB hunt for jobs that aren’t there and childcare they can’t afford, but working for a living being a “punishment” isn’t one of them.
      Cutting benefits in half if work testing requirements aren’t met *IS* a punishment. The DPB is meant to be there to support solo mums staying at home and raising their kids. To take that away from someone if they fall pregnant feels an awful lot like punishment to me.

      That’s something it would be nice to see Bennett and Key being made to squirm over by the nation’s media, but I won’t hold my breath.
      Me either.

      Another good question. But, given that you’re outraged at the prospect of women being offered a contraceptive that lasts a few years, presumably you’d be incandescent with rage at men being offered what’s effectively a permanent contraceptive…
      If it was couched in welfare policy designed to impinge on their reproductive rights, yeah, I would be ragey as all get out. If it was offered free to men as part of an array of options for contraception and men were encouraged to be responsible for reproduction AND SEXUAL HEALTH, then I’m all for it.

    • tallulahspankhead May 8, 2012 at 1:55 pm

      I don’t have time to address all your points, so let me deal with a couple.

      This isn’t about the government “subsidising contraception”. If it were, why isn’t it being offered to all low-income people, not just beneficiaries? Or do the virtuous working poor not matter?

      You sure offering the long-term contraception is about cost-benefit? Or is it that “those stupid sluts can’t be trusted to take a pill every day”? Not to mention, how incredibly, astoundingly offensive it would be to offer the child of a DPB recipient long-term contraception…and I say this having had a conversation with just such a person.

      “Most people don’t consider working for their income to be a “punishment.”

      You don’t think the mother of a much-wanted child might consider being required to leave her 1-year old to go to work 20 hours a week punative?

      “But, given that you’re outraged at the prospect of women being offered a contraceptive that lasts a few years, presumably you’d be incandescent with rage at men being offered what’s effectively a permanent contraceptive…”

      I’ll admit to being slightly facetious there. And I am not a doctor, but my understanding was that vasectomies are fairly reversible. What a shame this isn’t widely available.

      • Deborah May 8, 2012 at 1:58 pm

        Some vasectomies can be reversed, but it’s not certain, and it’s a long and delicate surgery. I don’t really know of any effective long lasting reversible contraceptives for men.

        • tallulahspankhead May 8, 2012 at 2:01 pm

          Well, there’s the pipe dream (no pun intended) I linked to.

          But no, there’s not. And people wonder why women get aggravated over issues to do with contraception.

        • Emma May 8, 2012 at 2:57 pm

          There is a form of vasectomy that is temporary. It’s not (so far as I know) available in NZ, but I know someone who’s had it overseas.

        • Hugh May 8, 2012 at 3:04 pm

          It’s more reversible than the equivalent operation for women, though.

      • Emma May 8, 2012 at 2:58 pm

        The primary parent of a one year old IS working. There is a benefit for people who are supposed to be in paid employment: it’s called the Unemployment Benefit. The DPB is no more an Unemployment Benefit than Superannuation is.

      • Psycho Milt May 8, 2012 at 3:32 pm

        You don’t think the mother of a much-wanted child might consider being required to leave her 1-year old to go to work 20 hours a week punative?

        My much-wanted children’s mother worked 40 hours a week when they were one year old – it wasn’t a punishment. Like I said, there are good reasons why expecting it of sole parents is unreasonable, but “mothers belong at home with their children” is not one of them.

        • tallulahspankhead May 8, 2012 at 3:52 pm

          I didn’t say they “belong”. My own mother worked from the time I was about 6-months old. But parents should have the choice, shouldn’t they? And forcing people into work-testing because they got pregnant while on the DBP seems incredibly punitive to me.

          • Psycho Milt May 8, 2012 at 7:31 pm

            In any field of human endeavour, choices dependent on external agencies for funding are heavily constrained choices. There’s no moral failure implicit in that for either party.

      • Buster May 8, 2012 at 5:57 pm

        You don’t think the mother of a much-wanted child might consider being required to leave her 1-year old to go to work 20 hours a week punative?

        You don’t think productive Kiwis with children who are forced to work 70 hour weeks to overcome the massive taxation burden consider funding other’s children to be punative?

        • tallulahspankhead May 8, 2012 at 6:03 pm

          No.

        • MJ May 9, 2012 at 6:27 pm

          Oh hey. I’m one of those productive Kiwis who pays more in tax a week than a woman on the DPB receives (in fact, I think I cover a couple of DPB mothers IIRC, though I don’t know the current rates), and I’d far rather my money went to her and her children than to anyone trying to control her uterus. Take your concern trolling and fuck off.

    • Lissa May 8, 2012 at 2:25 pm

      You’re talking shit, bro. WINZ doesn’t fund terminations, they are free of charge for NZ women through the public health system. As they should be.

      Contraception should be funded in the same way. Great idea for the government to do that, for everyone, via the health system.

      WINZ is invasive enough already ffs. Have you ever been on a benefit?

      • Psycho Milt May 8, 2012 at 3:16 pm

        Somewhat careless with phrasing, not “talking shit.” As described here, WINZ can provide a special needs grant if there are referral, transport and accommodation costs the DHB won’t cover. Was last on a benefit in 1981 – ie not recently, but I doubt they’ve grown any friendlier over the years.

  4. Emma May 8, 2012 at 3:00 pm

    The govt DOES subsidise vasectomies. The entire cost of my partner’s vasectomy was covered by the state, in 1997. They also subsidise the cost of condoms if you get them on prescription.

    Terminations are, as everyone who knows WTF they’re talking about has said, funded through the public health system. As they should be, because let’s remember the only way you can get a termination in NZ is if the pregnancy is a risk to your physical or mental health.

    The trans-vaginal ultrasound you will be asked to have before the termination is also fully funded.

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