Matthew Theunissen

Matthew Theunissen is a reporter for the Herald on Sunday.

Birth control plan 'belittling to women'

Rudinia Smith, a 23-year-old mother of three, supports the Government's free birth control for beneficiaries plan. Photo / Matthew Theunissen
Rudinia Smith, a 23-year-old mother of three, supports the Government's free birth control for beneficiaries plan. Photo / Matthew Theunissen

The Government's plan to offer women on benefits free birth control has been met with mixed responses from beneficiaries.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett announced yesterday that the Government would provide $1 million of funding for women on benefits and their teenage daughters to get long-term reversible contraception, such as an implant.

Speaking to APNZ outside a central Auckland Work and Income New Zealand (WINZ) office today, 22-year-old Rudinia Smith said she may not have had all three of her children if she been educated about contraception and had been offered it free.

"As long as they don't pressure people to take contraception as soon as they've had a kid I think it's actually a really good idea.''

Ms Smith, who is now doing a course in broadcasting, said she didn't actively try to have children in order to receive the benefit, but she acknowledged that she was "less careful'' because she knew she would be helped financially.

"I'm not saying (I have three children) because I was on the benefit but because I didn't do much else, and I didn't really know much about contraception.

"If I was offered that stuff when I was a lot younger I don't think I would have had three kids.''

She was positive about the Government help she had received since having her children.

"Because I'm a solo parent I've had a lot of assistance getting childcare and training incentive allowance for things like bus fares and things like that, so I've had a lot of help from WINZ.''

Naomi Grey, 23, also welcomed the Government's move and disagreed with suggestions that beneficiaries would be pressured into taking contraceptives.

"I think it might be somewhat of a good idea to encourage people on the benefit not to have children because they can't really afford to pay for themselves at the moment so they shouldn't really be having children.''

Putiputi Wikohika, who has had five children but lost one, was sure WINZ staff would pressure women into using contraceptives.

She claimed she had already been told by a case officer to "shut your legs''.

"I've even heard WINZ people say things worse than that to women.

"I go in there for a fight, for an argument, every time. There are people in there who have huge power control issues and they just make it worse for us. They take their job description way too far.''

Ms Wikohika, who has been on the benefit on-and-off for the last 20 years or so, saw the new policy as the Government's way of taking away beneficiaries' rights to have children.

She also raised the point that the policy unfairly targeted women, and men were not being offered vasectomies and condoms.

Sandra Waru, who has also been on the benefit for much of her life, said the new policy was "belittling'' to women.

"If [WINZ staff ] get told by the Government I think they'll do whatever the Government tells them to do. I think they'll push [contraception on women].''

"When Labour was in, life was better. You didn't get pressured to do things you don't know anything about. Since National's been in a lot of people are struggling. They're just taking money away from really important things,'' she said.

- NZ Herald

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