‘Forced contraception’ versus ‘encouraged responsibility’

Yesterday Anne Tolley was interviewed on NZ Q & A about dealing with the ineffectiveness of CYF (Child, Youth, Family) at dealing with child protection.

While changes to how CYF are currently being looked into Tolley raised a contentious issue – “forced contraception”.

@AnneTolleyMP raises impt issue re contraception for vulnerable families @NzMorningReport. Estimated 9,000 babies born at risk each year.

Radio NZ reports Minister considers ‘tricky subject’ of family size

Anne Tolley admitted it was a tricky subject, but said something had to be done about the women who have multiple children taken into care.

Mrs Tolley said she was talking about a small number of families, where Child Youth and Family was removing more than one child at birth, most from homes with a history of abuse and neglect.

“I know of a case where they were taking the sixth child from that woman and of course the first question I ask is; ‘So what sort of family planning advice is being made available to that woman, is it there immediately for her to think about?’

“It can’t be great for the mum involved to be continually pregnant and then losing that baby,” she said.

So is Mrs Tolley suggesting limiting the size of families?

“That’s not the New Zealand way. We don’t live in a dictatorship like that, but for some of these families I think it’s very distressing that we are removing four, five and six babies from them. And of course there’s a huge cost then that goes on to the general taxpayer,” she said.

But she said there was an underlying problem – referring to the Growing Up in New Zealand study that found just under a third of pregnancies were unplanned.

Mrs Tolley said in this day and age there was no need for that.

“Are we making sure that family planning and contraceptive advice is getting to the very people who need it, the families showing the most dysfunction and the most stress,” she said.

That doesn’t sound like an intention to force contraception but that’s a very tricky issue.

Association of Social Workers chief executive Lucy Sandford-Reed said she felt uncomfortable about the minister’s comments.

She said women could not be forced to use contraception and she would oppose any move to punish them by cutting their benefit if they did not agree to.

“My view would be that of a different approach and one that isn’t reactive and punitive. Providing contraceptive advice needs to be part of a package that the social work practitioner takes with them when they start working with the family. But you can’t just stomp in on day one and say ‘right here’s the pill’,” she said.

Nothing like that has been suggested by Tolley.

This is a very difficult thing to deal with, and is similar to people with high genetic risks of having children with serious medical or mental problems.

Forcing sterilisation and contraception should perhaps be reserved for extreme situations, but educating about strongly encouraging sterilisation and contraception for some people must surely be a responsible way to deal minimising children being born into at risk family situations.

It’s not dissimilar to forcing/encouraging vaccinations. Or forcing/encouraging blood transfusions and other medical help that is against the religious beliefs of parents.

Certainly these are issues that should be talked about without overstating and scaremongering.

There’s a difference between ‘forced contraception’ and ‘encouraged responsibility’, but the degree of difference may depend on the nature and degree of encouragement.

Video of interview: Overhauling our child care services

Leave a comment


  1. David

     /  28th September 2015

    very good interview by Kim Hill on Morning report just after 8am with that women who I guess is the union rep for social workers Sandford-Reed.
    She still thinks after 6 kids have been uplifted it might be too difficult to discuss contraception, IUDs can work for 7 years and are reversible. I would humbly suggest that if Sandford Reed’s attitude to social work is the prevailing one its no surprise we have huge problems.

    • Mike C

       /  28th September 2015


      I watched an interview of Anne Tolley the other day, and she placed a lot of blame at the feet of the Social Worker system.

      It sounds like Anne Tolley is going to take the Social Worker model apart, and totally reconstruct it, so it doesn’t surprise me that the Social Worker Union has slithered out of the woodwork, because lots of Social Workers who are entrenched in the current way of work procedure are not going to want to adapt and change to a new system.

  2. Pretty simple really Pete…. you want unlimited kids, cool. BUT you pay for them – you put a roof over their heads, you feed and clothe them… society will then share the burden via the education and health votes…

    Now we know that our society overall is too compassionate and too easily swayed by media hysteria [see Syrian situation] for a hard line “you breed them, you feed them approach” to stick.

    So a cap support to say the 2nd child on DPB, WFF and other tax payer transfers [cash or tax credits] to parents would be a possible balancing point…

    But the real issue here is not the breed for a living thing its the bashing, sexually abusing and killing of children by parents, step parents, live in lovers and family.

    Stopping that is complex – but a few things come to mind.

    Sentence any child killer or child sexual abuser to LIFE with a 35 year non parole period. Harsh? Yes it is but you destroy a childs opportunity for a good life, you lose you opportunity for a life of freedom. Think about it. You gone for pretty much your whole adult life and can’t re-offend..that would break the cycles of abuse in families and more importantly offer witness real long lasting protection from the retaliation by the creeps abusing children

    Pass a law regarding conspiracy in these cases. The Kahui twins died in a house full of adults… people knew who the killer/s where and refused to co-operate with Police to bring the killer/s to justice. Surely we can find them all guilty of neglect and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice

    Anyway – I don’t know the answers but its obviously that decades of no blame social worker intervention hasn’t worked in this area. Time for some tough love…

    • jamie

       /  28th September 2015

      Agree about the sentencing. I don’t care who you are or what your background is, if you’ve reached adulthood (or maybe even adolescence) and you don’t understand that bashing or torturing a child is basically evil, then you need to be removed from society.

      It probably won’t go over with the “whack your kids for jesus” crowd, but they’re part of the problem as far as I’m concerned. It’s time they moved on and put the better part of their beliefs to work to become part of the solution.

  3. I agree with capping WFF at 2 or 3 kids, anymore and we are simply sponsoring an irresponsibly high birth rate, (and Catholicism amongst other things) unemployed solo mums not so much, as circumstances change, could have been 5 kids and married to a rich fella who runs off with the secretary…… then winds up on the DPB….

    With regards to repeat failures as parents, and CYFS getting involved, in a democracy we cant force sterilization with a stick, but perhaps a financial incentive or “carrot” to get an IUD, or Jadelle, a couple of K to someone on the lower end of the socioeconomic scale is very attractive, and with the cost of putting these kids in care, it would pay itself back pretty damn quick. That is the investment approach, everyone one wins, the Pov mum with kids allready in CYFS gets cash, the Gov saves cash, and less abused/neglected kids in the system.

    • Shane – I see your point re a break up leaving someone with a swag of kids. a person in that situation deserves immediate support to protect the children…. But in the medium to long term that’s why we have child support legislation and it has real teeth with IRD allow to deduct at source. You breed them you feed them

  4. rayinnz

     /  28th September 2015

    Great to see the Left wing climb into this, Adolf’s final solution will come up any minute
    Of course they are all in favour of contraception abortion and a woman’s right to control her fertility but apparently not for the poor, you would almost think they want more poor rather than less

  5. kittycatkin

     /  28th September 2015

    The 1/3 unplanned has been raised before, and can be misleading. Many people want to have children and are not using contraception-but the pregnancy isn’t ‘planned’ to happen at any exact time so much as being welcomed when it does. If a woman goes off the pill, she could be pregnant next month or next year, that part’s not controllable, so the timing is ‘unplanned’.

    Remember the hoohah when Paula Bennett raised the issue of free, long-term contraception ? She couldn’t have provoked more outrage had she brought in forced abortion. How dare she interfere with women’s fertility ?

  6. DaveG

     /  28th September 2015

    no one is interfering with anyone’s right to reproduce, any one, can go forth and multiply as often as they like, providing of course, they have the desire, and the means to support them themselves. If they can’t afford them, don’t breed!!


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