Maybe I am just becoming more conservative in my old age, or having children has changed me, but I fail to see the problem in offering beneficiaries free contraceptives, and in fact applaud the idea.
Not because beneficiaries make bad parents. But because it is a step in the right direction in terms of encouraging people to have the number of children that is a comfortable fit for them, financially, emotionally, and otherwise. If that is not empowering women, I don't know what is.
I don't think the government, by the way, is doing it to 'empower women'; it's being done as a way of reigning in the cost of benefits and playing to the National party supporter base, and that's why critics are riled by it. But the critics do themselves no favours by talking about 'eugenics', 'racism' and 'beneficiary bashing'. Free contraception is entirely voluntary, and has grown out of a widespread dissatisfaction about the way benefits, intended to ensure children can eat, have a roof over their heads and see doctors, sometimes don't seem to make it to their intended targets. While most beneficiaries undoubtedly act responsibly with this pretty small stipend, when they do not they cause untold misery and ill health and the state is within its rights, I think, to take pre-emptive action on the issue.
I think ideally all sexually active men and women should have access to as many cheap contraceptives as they need, while acknowledging that it's still not going to stop unwanted children, or children born into situations that are obviously unsuitable. To further that aim the next step is to target at-risk young women, in particular, with plenty of incentives to stay in education and training. Ensure they have real options for their future. It's all infinitely harder than handing out depo provera shots or long term contraceptive implants. That said, we have to start somewhere.