by Metiria Turei
As reported on Morning Report yesterday, the Welfare Working Group report makes a startling – indeed deeply frightening – recommendation to link contraception to sole parent benefit receipt. The report says on page 15:
We have heard a concern among some people that setting a work expectation for parents when their youngest child reaches three years or six years may create an incentive for a small minority of parents to have additional children to avoid this work expectation. Should this eventuate, this would likely contribute to worse outcomes for the parents, their existing children and the family as a whole, and make it even harder for parents to regain their independence from the welfare system. The Working Group considers that one component of addressing this incentive is to provide support for people on welfare to manage their fertility, including through contraception and information about expectations.
There can be no other interpretation except that if a woman gets pregnant while on a benefit, she must accept state enforced contraception if she wishes to continue to receive her $194 per week social support. Despite dog whistling to misogynists everywhere, most New Zealanders would consider it abhorrent that the state would force women into contraception. This is an extreme form of state violence against women. The state has no right to control a woman’s fertility, under any circumstances.
Note that the report talks about “long acting reversible” contraception. To fit that description it is most likely referring to Depo Provera (the “injection”) or the Intrauterine Device (IUD).
Both are highly invasive. Both are linked to serious health problems.
Depo provera is especially problematic.
First, for health reasons. In 2004 The USA Food & Drug Administration (FDA) issued a Black Box warning about long-term use of the long-acting, injectable contraceptive drug, Depo-Provera stating [that] recent research suggests prolonged use of the drug may result in the loss of bone density.
Women report anaphylactic shock, severe and prolonged menstrual bleeding, or the reverse lack of menstrual bleeding, sudden partial loss of vision, unexpected dizziness or fatigue, sudden signs of allergy – among other symptoms when using the drug… women’s health groups also highlighted potential future risks to women’s health such as increased risk of breast, uterine and cervical cancers, and the potential for osteoporosis to develop in Depo-Provera users.
And second, because in New Zealand it has a history of being used as a form of social control over Maori and Pasifika women.
During the 1980s in New Zealand there were regular reports that obstetric hospitals with a largely non-Pakeha population administered Depo-Provera injections to women before discharging them, and to women being discharged from or on leave from prisons and girls’ homes. There were also occasional reports of Depo-Provera being a condition for women obtaining an abortion. In the NZ Contraception & Health Study 1986, 60% of Depo-Provera users enrolled in the study were Maori and 66% were Pacific Island women. A study of contraceptive use in Hamilton in 1983 had previously shown striking variations between races. Only 6% of single Pakeha women were using Depo-Provera, compared to 31% of Maori women.
I can personally attest to the insistence and impatience with which pro-Depo health professionals dealt with Maori women in the 1980s, as does Dr Rawiri Taonui. The pressure was powerful then. Imagine what it will be like if the threat is to take the benefit away from you and your children.
Women on the benefit are among the most vulnerable, are in invariably in need because of circumstances beyond their control. The state must not be allowed to use threats of destitution to physically victimise volunerable women, Maori women, young women, Pasifika women.
This recommendation from the Welfare Working Group shows so clearly what an extremist group it is. The report must be dumped – for the sake of your sisters, your mothers and your daughters.