Family Planning and Poverty
In the early 1970s when I was first in Parliament most Labour MPs
supported the Family Planning Association. We cheered a sizeable extra
subsidy to it. An FPA branch opening in my electorate became a
celebration. Planning families was an article of faith in ours, and our
parents' generations. For centuries women knew that fewer children
made it easier for everyone to get ahead. But accidents happened. Our
great grandparents who came from families of ten or more, seldom had enough
money or parental affection to go around. Several family members' education
suffered. A mother's health, too. With condoms readily available, and the
pill after 1963, women's choices broadened. Fewer children made a second
family income possible. The middle classes led the way towards birth
control, and the workers quickly followed. By the 1950s Maori families were
smaller. Pacific Islanders followed.
Why did Peter Sharples overlook these basic facts when he rabbited on last
week about Maori poverty? Poorer families are expanding again. Yet, for some
reason it is no longer politically correct to champion family planning.
Instead, we get tear-jerking newspaper stories about child poverty,
especially among Maori, as though it's all society's fault, and parents carry no
responsibility. Ignoring facts such as that 166,000 New Zealand families have only one
parent, and that 100,000 Maori children are welfare dependent, journalists
argue that governments aren't doing enough to help. None asks why
so many children are born in the first place when parents can't or won't
provide adequately for them. Odd when birth control is so freely available,
don't you think?
I wish I knew why this is happening. I suspect there are many factors at
work. Since a large number with too many inadequately cared for
children are Maori or Pacific Islanders, some of our politically correct
do-gooders argue that they have a cultural entitlement, and it would be
"racist" to question it. Then there's the DPB introduced in 1974. Several
things happened as a result of that. First the rate of marital breakdown
accelerated as partners sought to shuck off the costs of a mistake on to the
taxpayer. Second, at a time when the economy was subsiding, many younger
women made a career out of pregnancy. The social services would assist. When
some DPB recipients realised life wasn't a bed of roses, another child
gave them a pay rise, whether they intended looking after it or not.
Result? Poverty expanded. Lost in the rush to welfare has been our parents'
message that caring for children is a big job, more likely to succeed with
fewer kids, and two parents.
New Zealand's population isn't growing rapidly by world standards. But the
family planning message is now ignored by our poorest. Many Maori and Pacific
Island families dependent on welfare group together in lower socio-economic
areas where too little interest is taken in their children's education.
Fecklessness abounds. The poorest are slowest to use subsidised health
services designed to assist them. Household overcrowding becomes common;
infection spreads more rapidly.
On average the world over, welfare recipients are less attentive
parents. Multiple maternal partners and child abuse go hand in hand;
teen-age crime accompanies them; road accidents are more likely to
occur where one parent has more children than she/he can monitor properly.
Too many young tragedies result directly from irresponsible parental sexual
activity when birth control is readily available. Jenny Shipley's government
toyed with holding parents accountable for their failures, then gave up when
Labour screamed blue murder and teamed up with a growing army of welfare
After World War Two the Japanese used abortion as an unpleasant population
control method. China too where the one-child policy curtailed growth.
India's sterilisation programmes were less effective. Everywhere, family
planning gave women choices, and always made for more socially responsible family
units. Until, that is, western countries hit on income support mechanisms
where incentives encouraged more, not fewer children. Political correctness
and faulty policies create our permanent underclass of under-achieving
children. I wish the Maori Party would come to grips with the self-inflicted
aspect to poverty. No state assistance can lift people out of the misery
their parents, with political backing, have opted for. Social workers can't
create miracles for unwanted children. People themselves have to be
encouraged to act responsibly. Our governing priestesses should know that
careless breeding helps nobody, least of all, women.