New Zealand offers contraception to women on welfare

WELLINGTON - New Zealand's government is to offer women on welfare benefits, and their daughters, free long-term contraception in a move immediately rejected by rights groups Tuesday as insulting to women.

The free contraception will be offered to teenagers on benefits as well as all women on benefits, and their daughters aged 16 to 19.

Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said the move was aimed at helping people on welfare to get into training or work and targeted young women most at risk of staying on benefits long term and having more children.

"We certainly have concerns about children being born to those on welfare and we see the access to contraception as being a barrier, particularly the cost around it," Bennett said.

However, opponents claimed the measure bordered on state-control of women's reproductive choices.

Rebecca Occleston, from the Beneficiary Advisory Service in Christchurch, told Radio New Zealand it was "insulting" the way women on welfare were being targeted.

"I think they are putting it in a way that implies that people on benefits are having children deliberately, so here, have some contraception, that will stop the problem. I think that is a bit simplified," she said.

Former Greens MP and "Action Against Poverty" spokeswoman Sue Bradford said while the contraception was voluntary, it was "totally unacceptable" for the government to get involved in women's reproduction.

"We believe that women in this country have the right to control their own reproduction," she said.

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