Response from the Catholic Church on Contraception Proposals in Welfare Reform

8 May 2012 | BIOETHICS

The proposal to subsidise long term contraception to women on any kind of benefit is just one of the many changes to welfare that the Church is opposed to.

The New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Agency Caritas has made a submission to the Social Services Select Committee on the Social Security (Youth Support and Work Focus) Amendment Bill.

“The Catholic Church has very real concerns about the proposal for case managers to offer any woman on any kind of benefit, including married women, as well as the daughters of those on benefits between the ages of 16-19, free long term reversible contraception. The Church’s well known and long held view on artificial contraception remains, however this is just one of the many changes that the Church opposes,” says Julianne Hickey, CEO of Caritas Aotearoa.

“The Catholic Church teaches a respect for human dignity and many of the proposals will damage that dignity. The key purpose of welfare changes should be to reduce poverty not to make the vulnerable more vulnerable.”

“If contraceptive options and incomes become linked, a beneficiary facing a case manager may feel they have little option at all,” Mrs Hickey says

“While the Government says that they won’t be coerced, we know that coercion can be subtle and when punitive measures are proposed for those who have subsequent children while on welfare it seems there is little option but to take it,”

“A further example of this erosion of dignity is the form of money management to be imposed on beneficiaries particularly vulnerable young people such as the compulsory introduction of a payment card for food and groceries.

“We also have concerns about the vulnerable children and young people who are targeted in reforms proposed. Three groups of vulnerable children are targeted by the Bill: 16-17 year old beneficiaries, the children of 16-18 year old parents on benefits, and subsequent children born to parents receiving a benefit.
“We believe that the family is the critical foundation of our society and families should be supported and nurtured. Therefore we are concerned about the inflexible requirements about work expectations for parents. While parents (whether on a benefit or not) choose to return to work when their children are very young they are able to do so because childcare that matches their work commitments is available and affordable or there are relatives able to support them in this way.

“At the same time we should continue to uphold the choice of parents to stay at home and raise their children if they believe that is best for the child. This should not be a privilege of the few.

“However the changing nature of work itself makes it increasingly difficult to match employment opportunities with childcare options. For example in the growth of part-time casualised shift work where parents don’t know from week to week when they will be working.

“We will continue to oppose these kinds of changes to welfare policy that we believe erodes respect for human dignity and will make vulnerable people more vulnerable.

The link the Caritas Submission on Social Security (Youth Support and Work Focus) Amendment Bill.
www.caritas.org.nz/resources/submissions/2012/submission-social-services-select-committee-social-security-youth-support