I was always taught not to raise the topics of politics, sex or money unless you wanted to start an argument. Todays policy announcement about free long term contraceptives for beneficiaries from National raises all three.
But why are people so concerned? John Key seems keen to reassure us it is all optional:
“Mr Key said he did not believe Work and Income case managers would put undue pressure on beneficiaries to take up the long-term contraceptive options, saying they would simply be made aware of the options they had.” http://www.nzherald.co.nz/nz/news/article.cfm?c_id=1&objectid=10804304
I think the question we need to ask is what can happen when people who have been disempowered, victimized by trauma, and suffering mental health difficulties engage with these policies in the real world?
Firstly I agree with Mr Shearer, quoted in the same article, that it is inappropriate for non-health professionals to be discussing health matters such as contraceptive choices with women or teenage girls in their role as a case manager.
With all due respect to WINZ case mangers, this is a health decision, and best left to the people who are actually trained and registered to help people make such a decision, namely doctors and health specialists. And given recent events do I even need to point out the potential privacy issues?
Secondly policies are implemented by people. And therein lies the core of the problem. I have heard too many horror stories of how people with complex histories and difficulties can be mis-treated and outright abused by “systems.”
This is what therapists would call “enactments” where people with a history of being abused and mistreated find themselves being further bullied or mistreated by systems, be it WINZ, the ACC, CYFS or the health system. John Key’s “belief” that this won’t happen does very little to reassure me on this point.
People with little power, few skills, and a BIG incentive to be “compliant”,(namely their only source of income) can easily be gently coerced or outright forced into decisions they feel uncomfortable about. The idea that even one woman could find herself in a position of having to accept a health procedure, which comes with considerable risks and side effects to keep their income, deeply troubles me.
Think about this for a moment. Imagine an eighteen year old woman who is single, unemployed and is actively trying to get pregnant. Her morally conservative and enthusiastic WINZ case manager attempts to convince her to access free long term contraception. She refuses this offer which results in conflict between her and her case manager and she comes to be seen by staff as “problematic” and “difficult.”
As a result this young person, anxious and frightened of the “system” starts to receive less entitlements and poor service. She becomes pregnant and as a result receives disapproving comments, snide remarks and less offers of help and support to which she is entitled. Believing she is unable to complain she simply tolerates it as “more of the same” from a world she has already learnt to mis-trust. She becomes less and less willing to engage with services that may be able to help her, and her quality of life deteriorates.
Far fetched? I don’t think so. And while you may have a moral position on her decision, she has broken no laws and is entitled to the choice she has made. And as soon as the state starts to have influence over maters of reproductive choices, we are on very, very dangerous ethical and moral ground.
National would not hesitate when in opposition to yell “nanny state” when Labour announced social policy they disagreed with. But given the choice I’d rather have a nanny state than a strict and disapproving “daddy” state any day.