The Welfare Working Group and the injection

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.

29 Comments Posted

  1. Obviously my eyes work differently from many here.

    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.

    Where does that become

    …if a woman gets pregnant while on a benefit, she must accept state enforced contraception

    I take it here that “state enforced contraception” means abortion, because if a woman is pregnant, then the time for controlling fertility is passed.

    I read this as a committment that says if you CHOOSE to accept benefits then as part of that agreement you will enter into a contract stating that you will not get pregnant again whilst on benefits, and will use appropriate methods to prevent pregnancy, and there is support available to you in that endeavour. Should you choose to not honour the contract, then the benefits related to that contract will cease.

    Of course, should an employer try to bind an employee in that manner, it would be deemed as unlawful, you just cant do that sort of thing. So whereas it sounds like a good idea, it can’t work as suggested.

  2. ” … manage their fertility, including through contraception”

    – I agree, this is a little bit of a disturbing statement, but I wouldn’t leap to the conclusion that “there can be no other interpretation except that if a woman gets pregnant while on a benefit, she must accept state enforced contraception”. But it would be great if you could press the report’s authors on precisely what they meant by this eg. what does ‘manage’ mean, is there information on people on benefits not having info about or easy access to contraception, and the most vague part of the statement, “including” through contraception. What other means of “managing fertility” would the authors be promoting?

    What seems clear is that this report is a pretty abstract and ideological piece of work, written by academics who should know better. They are creating negative sentiment about welfare, in an economy where there are few jobs, in a recession which was caused by greed and incompetence amongst the financial and political elite.

  3. By all means we should be giving people the information and tools they need to have an affordable, sustainable family. It irritates me to see people having kids they can’t afford, and I empathise for these families who struggle because of this irresponsibility. Contraception should be strongly advocated and subsidised, but it should never be forced or expected.

  4. I wondered if that made me a fascist…
    Not even rapists? It can be done by injection that wears off (a testosterone vaccine)…
    Well, I’m not a fascist so I withdraw and apologise.

    If SPARC really wanted to improve the future of NZ athletics, they’d sponsor more dance socials for the athletes

  5. So it’s OK to ‘educate’ people to have fewer babies; but you’re a misogynist if you provide ‘contraception and information about expectations’.
    I interpret the ‘expectations’ as something like “you shouldn’t have anymore kids, unless you can afford them without govt assistance”
    I think spelling this out is fair.
    State enforced contraception is, as Kerry puts it, abhorrent; although I believe serial rapists should be castrated.

  6. “Teenage girls from New Zealand’s most deprived areas are almost 10 times more likely to become pregnant than are those from the wealthiest areas, a Child Health Summit has heard.”

    http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10405499

    And in general, as you go down the deprivation decile scale (from wealthiest to poorest) the percentage of total births in each increases;

    http://www.pmmrc.health.govt.nz/moh.nsf/pagescm/7743/$File/pmmrc-4th-annual-report2009.pdf

  7. @fin 3:29 PM

    Yes, I didn’t expect the IPD link would be a big hit, especially with male readers here. But it does highlight the way society seems to put the onus for contraception onto women.

  8. Photonz1

    In encourages the poeple who can least afford to have children, to have the most. And you want to encourage that more.

    Where have I said that I want poor people to have more kids? I do not recall presenting an alternative system but in all respects the answer is education, not enforced contraception. What I want is for poor people to be able to bring their children up without impoverishment. Trying to limit the amount of procreation through limiting finances is fatally flawed… It creates more costs associated with poverty. Surely you can acknowledge that?

    Please link to the statistics that show poor people have more children than wealthy people? Otherwise I have to go on your previous form and conclude that you are talking rubbish again.

  9. To digress down samiam’s proposed path, Toad quotes Green policy saying
    “we should treat the figure of 5.7 million with caution and as an indicative upper limit figure only” so…
    What do ‘we’ propose to ensure we keep below this upper limit?

    Thank-you Toad for providing such information as Green policy. I appreciate it a lot more than you intrapenileumbrella link..

  10. Nothing in the WWG report about making the deadbeat dads take some financial or other responsibility.

    And that should be the case – the issue that would need to be addressed there is the fact that many men flee overseas in order to escape such payments.

    Imagine the uproar if the government decided to double their child support payments if they didn’t have an Intra Penile Device inserted.

    Perhaps that should be considered.

    Something else that needs to be considered in this debate (I understand this will be highly controversial, but it still needs to be considered) is the question of who are the gatekeepers to sexual intercourse? Answer that question, and some of the other issues might fall into place.

  11. “Long acting reversible” could be the oral contraceptive pill also. it’s basically anything but condoms and diaphragm, although if you always use them they are effective too

  12. Todd- your system is fatally flawed.

    In encourages the poeple who can least afford to have children, to have the most.

    And that is exactly what is already happening now.

    In some areas the poorest 20% of poeple are having 50% of newborn babies.

    And you want to encourage that more.

  13. Photonz1

    And they want those who work hard and limit their families because they decide they can’t afford more children, to pay for more children anyway – just someone elses. The perfect recipe to increase child poverty.

    The best way to alleviate childhood poverty is to give the parents the means to provide for their children properly. Whether this is through a good job that pays a fair wage or a benefit that allows the parents to purchase the required items, ie food, clothes shelter and education is far preferable to what I also think is a form of forced contraception because of a persons financial status. You say that you want poor people to stop breeding because they are poor, surely this is fascism? There are probably far more poor people who choose not to procreate because of their finances than rich people phot. You really need to start singing a different tune.

    But I digress, the child poverty article you refer to is on the Jackal website. You can debate it there if you like.

  14. Indeed, Lindsay, Greens do.

    The issue I have is with the state determining what type of contraception people should use, and threatening punitive action against people who don’t use it, which are the implications here.

  15. I take expectations to mean societal expectations. Society generally doesn’t expect people to knowingly put themselves in a position where they need to be on a benefit. Education about that is required.

    Free contraception is not new. As proponents of public health wouldn’t the Greens welcome more of it?

  16. @samiam 12:27 PM

    That is a complex debate, samiam, because it is dependent on so many variables. It should always be less than the ecological carrying capacity of the land. But that is determined by what we do. If we move to more ecologically sustainable practices like less reliance on fossil fuels for energy the figure goes up. If we start doing stupid things like digging up Southland’s lignite to convert into fuel it goes down.

    From Green policy:

    At the moment it is estimated that the maximum population that New Zealand can sustain (based on the level of useable productive land and the ecological footprint of each person in 1997/98) is around 5.7 million. [from the Ministry for the Environment’s “Ecological Footprint of New Zealand and its Regions” currently being developed further.] However at this stage the figure is based on the level of useable productive land and doesn’t take fully into account other crucial sustainability indicators such as water, carbon and energy footprints. Furthermore a range of factors may cause the total productive land capacity to be reduced in the future e.g. as a consequence of climate change/sea level rise or peak oil etc.These factors mean that we should treat the figure of 5.7 million with caution and as an indicative upper limit figure only.

  17. Maybe this is an excellent point to start a reasoned debate, which is long overdue, and critical to any long term strategy for a sustainable future for NZ.
    That debate is…
    “What should New Zealand’s population be?”
    It’s an election year and The Greenz could show some real statesmanship by debating core fundamentals such as population.

  18. You say: In the NZ Contraception & Health Study 1986, 60% of Depo-Provera users enrolled in the study were Maori and 66% were Pacific Island women.

    How can that be true? Do you mean 66% were polynesian women (including Maori)? Or are you talking about two different studies?

    [frog: Metiria didn’t say that, it is a quote from the Women’s Health Action Trust publication in 2004. Hard to know what to make of it. Your suggestion Lucy that they meant “Polynesian” rather than “Pacific Island” is the most likely explanation.]

  19. Todd says “..we now have an epidemic of one in five Kiwi children growing up in poverty…
    ..”

    And the Greens want to make that higher.

    They want to encourage those who can least afford it, to have as many children as they want.

    And they want those who work hard and limit their families because they decide they can’t afford more children, to pay for more children anyway – just someone elses.

    The perfect recipe to increase child poverty.

  20. i think the thought of state enforced contraception is abhorrent. But it doesnt say that it does advocate for free contracetives and advice for ?DPB beneficiaries, and that is a good idea.

    “Information about expectations” is the worry8ing statement there. Expectations of what? What if you don’t meet the expectations?

    My work is with young, mostly single mothers with families. I often ask them, when they get pregnant, how they were planning on supporting the baby. The response is almost universal – a blank look. What? What do you mean? I’ll live with my parents? Work? no I don’t work

    Kids dont think about it, but not so bad to think about where the money to bring up your kids comes from. Not sure how you do that though, its what the DPB is there for isnt it? To allow you to have babies?

    Expectations though….

  21. toad says “I’ve read it again photonz1, and Metiria’s interpretation is the obvious one.”

    So helping people control their fertility, can only be interpreted as extreme state violence against women.

    What a complete load of nonsense.

    People with jobs control the size of their family to what they can afford.

    Typical of the bludger attitude that people with no jobs shouldn’t have to do the same.

  22. Initially I had the same reaction as photonz. But then I read further down the blog post where Metiria talked about some history and it made a bit more sense.

  23. @photonz1 11:22 AM

    I’ve read it again photonz1, and Metiria’s interpretation is the obvious one.

    …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

    .
    I’m all for providing information about contraception – but this is about providing information about expectations re contraception.

  24. Working group says “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. ”

    Metiria says “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.”

    repeat “There can be no other interpretation…”

    Then take some reading lessons.

    Because currently, the govt deos EXACTLY the same thing with high school girls.

    They “..provide support for [high school girls]to manage their fertility, including through contraception and information about expectations.”

    So why haven’t you been screaming about the (to use your words) “extreme form of state violence against [high school girls].

    The only thing that is extreme is your reaction.

    All the working group asks is for those on the DPB to do what everyone else does – control the size of their family to what they can afford.

  25. @Kerry 10:47 AM

    I certainly wasn’t trying to demonise the IUD, and acknowledge that many women have few or no adverse effects from it and that for many it is their preferred choice of contraceptive.

    As you say, the key is informed choice, and the issue here is that the Welfare Working Group is proposing denying that choice to beneficiary women.

  26. Depo Provera is a very useful drug that gives 10s of thousands of women contraceptive choice. But choice is the key isnt it?

    All drugs have risks and benefits and side effects. Lots of Maori and Pacific women like and choose depo provera.

    IUD is also long term contraceptive, although now there is Mirena which has a small load of local progesterone which prevents for many the cramps and icnreased bleeding or systemic side effects of traditional iuds and progersterone. Efffective for 5 years if it suits a woman.

    We now too have Jadelle, which is a small hormone implant of medication similar to Depo. It is effective for 5 years..

    The development and usage of contracteptives have given millions of women a freedom they did not have prior to the 1960s. Younger women can rush to condemn because ignorant of the history prior to the 1980s. Women WANTED contaception.
    Don’t forget that, when you demonise contraception. Informed choice is the key

  27. While not as potentially serious in its “side” effects as Depo, the IUD causes irregular bleeding throughout the cycle, cramping, and heavier and more painful periods in many women.

    I guess the WWG view having to put up with that as “character building” for the women concerned.

    Nothing in the WWG report about making the deadbeat dads take some financial or other responsibility. Imagine the uproar if the government decided to double their child support payments if they didn’t have an Intra Penile Device inserted.

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