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.