Paul Little at large

Paul Little is a Herald on Sunday columnist

Paul Little: Stuck for ideas, Govt preys on powerless

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Social Development Minister Paula Bennett with her daughter Ana 7 years ago. They survived beneficiary life. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett with her daughter Ana 7 years ago. They survived beneficiary life. Photo / Mark Mitchell

It sounds reasonable. It's free. It's effective. It means women no longer have to worry about bringing up an unplanned child outside the secure context of a stable relationship.

It doesn't depend on feckless males to make it work. Its effects are long-term and it takes only a relatively short time to put in place. Yet, for some reason, Paula Bennett has stopped short of instituting compulsory sterilisation to enhance the quality of life of women on the DPB.

If the minister has been heard to say she would have welcomed such a facility when she was on the DPB, I must have missed it.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the timing of the announcement of Bennett's Slut-Stopper plan was part of a National Party conspiracy to draw attention from the John Banks affair.

But for a conspiracy to exist at least two people have to agree on something, and an element of planning and organisation is required.

"Getting our act together" has hardly been a motto for this Government in the first six months of its second term.

Free contraception, in principle, is a good thing for anyone, especially young people.

Most women on the DPB would rather not be, after all. But the nanny state shows her stacked hand by insisting on long-term methods, effectively saying that women can't be trusted to get the hang of condoms, diaphragms or other site-specific options.

Judging from the contempt the minister generally shows for beneficiaries, I wonder if she is worried that they would stockpile the contraceptives and flog them on the birth control black market.

The really noxious component of the whole proposal is its extension to the teenage daughters of beneficiaries who are over the age of consent.

It would be comforting to believe that this plan was not meant to be a slur on women on the DPB. Yet the inference is unavoidable.

As is the implication that being a trollop is hereditary. There's a slut gene that gets transmitted from solo mothers to their daughters. If your mother was a slut, you'll probably be one, too. Maybe not, but let's not take any chances. These second-generation sluts can't help themselves. Only long-term invasive contraception can counter the effects of the gene.

To provide contraception to girls under 16 would be to encourage not just regular, everyday sluttishness but illegal, underage sluttishness. So, hypocritically, it turns a blind eye to the number of sexually active girls in this category, less able to cope with the realities of having a child and in even more need of contraceptives than their slutty mothers.

At least this isn't social engineering. We know, because the minister told us so. But that just makes it harder to understand why it is focused on such a specific group. Why is it only for women on benefits and their tramp daughters? Surely unwanted pregnancies are as much a burden for sluts at Dio or Baradene as for those at Huntly College. Or are only beneficiaries carriers of the slut gene?

I hope the minister doesn't think their socio-economic position means those unfortunate girls from good homes - as opposed to the sluts - are immune from the inconvenience of an unwanted pregnancy. But then, their parents are better resourced when it comes to jacking up a termination. Even Paula Bennett can see that.

* * *

Harvard researchers have conducted an experiment which proved conclusively that humans love talking about themselves. There's even an area of the brain that lights up like the Viaduct when we get to discourse on our favourite subject.

The Harvard crew could have saved a lot of time and money and come to the same conclusion simply by watching any of the self-regarding gabfests on TVNZ 7.

- Herald on Sunday

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