Simon Collins

Simon Collins is the Herald’s social issues reporter.

Women being 'driven to abortion' by welfare reform

Photo / Thinkstock.
Photo / Thinkstock.

A single-parent support group says some women are being driven to abort their babies because they are scared of the Government's new hardline welfare laws.

Julie Whitehouse, of the Auckland Single Parents Trust, says other mothers are going "underground" and trying to hide their babies from authorities rather than go back to work one year after giving birth.

A new law that will stop the clock on work obligations for only a year when women have new babies while on welfare is due to come into force on July 30 for youth benefits and on October 1 for sole parents and other beneficiaries.

It will make sole parents look for work part-time when their youngest child turns 5 and fulltime when that child turns 14. If they have another baby while on welfare their obligations will be deferred for a year, but they will then have to look for part-time work if their youngest previous child is then 5 or over.

A welfare working group led by economist Paula Rebstock said last year the change was needed to deter "a small minority of parents having additional children to avoid work expectations".

Interviews with solo mothers who have become pregnant again while on welfare have found that most plan to respond to the new law as the Government intends - by taking more care not to get pregnant again, and by agreeing to look for work after a year if they do have another baby.

But Ms Whitehouse, whose group organises social activities and support meetings for sole parents, says some of her members fear that any woman who gets pregnant while on welfare will be "in trouble".

"A number of young women who are pregnant don't follow politics. They have been afraid that they are going to be forced to abort their babies," she said. "What I see is that they are going to hide these babies. These beneficiaries are afraid of being pushed into work."

Green MP Jan Logie said she had a written testimony from one woman on the domestic purposes benefit in her 30s who said Work and Income had advised her to have an abortion. However the woman declined to speak to the Weekend Herald.

"There were other women who were saying they had heard that. That is the culture around these changes," Ms Logie said.

- NZ Herald

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