‘A Current Affair’ Asked If Unemployed Women Should Be Forced Onto Contraception Last Night
The world responds: NOPE.
After presumably rattling out an old bingo cage of regular story ideas and pulling out the words “dole bludgers”, “cash cows”, and “poor people stink”, A Current Affair aired a segment last night which raised the possibility of implementing state-enforced mandatory contraception for unemployed Australian women.
“At A Current Affair we get all sorts of polarising ideas about welfare and the benefit,” reporter Steve Marshall said, bracing viewers for what was to come. “Even though this idea requires unemployed women to do all the heavy lifting, not all women are against the idea. After this segment you too will probably feel compelled to enter the no contraception, no dole debate.”
Note: the “heavy lifting” he refers to is the fact women’s bodies would be involuntarily pumped full of a hormone which temporarily sterilises them.
Though marketed as “the debate that’s dividing the nation”, the ten-minute story was solely based on an idea from former Labor MP Gary Johns. Johns has been arguing for a number of years now that our welfare system which supports unemployed parents is incentivising people to have children and being exploited for personal gain. First raising the idea in an opinion piece for The Australian a year ago, he argued compulsory contraception would “crack intergenerational reproduction of strife”. This was promptly dismissed by welfare organisations as cruel and absurd.
At the time, former social justice worker Tom Calma suggested it was nothing but “welfare bashing”. “[They’re] naive statements made by someone in privilege,” he told The Guardian. This was then exacerbated in July when Johns jumped headlong into controversy on The Bolt Report by calling Aboriginal women “cash cows”. “They are kept pregnant and producing children for the cash; now that has to stop,” he said, apparently forgetting the original topic of discussion was the increased rate of domestic violence perpetrated against Indigenous women.
Now, Johns has released a book on the same topic and ACA have picked up the issue anew. “The demand for unemployed women to use contraception as a condition of receive their welfare payments isn’t new, but now for the first time we have a solid idea of how many Aussie kids are being born into welfare families each year,” Marshall said during the report. “It’s a frightening figure; one that’s thrust the ‘no contraception, no dole’ debate firmly under the spotlight.”
Before the segment even aired, hundreds of people on social media were criticising the show for giving such a bizarre and harmful topic a platform in the first place. Though Johns’ idea (and its implicit focus on women over men) was combated during the segment by writer Jane Caro, not much attention was giving to the fact it was one step away from eugenics. State-sanctioned control of people’s reproductive systems doesn’t exactly have the greatest track record.
Quizzing people on a bizarro government eugenics program… Australia in this year 2016. pic.twitter.com/bYJ8X5FgEA
— Mark Di Stefano (@MarkDiStef) January 4, 2016
POLL: ______, when receiving welfare, should be forcibly sterilised
— Tiger Webb (@tfswebb) January 4, 2016
— User Elena Cresci (@elenacresci) January 4, 2016
This continued throughout the night with women being forced to advocate for their own reproductive rights on Facebook and fed-up single mothers calling the show out for their constant criticism.
“I am sick to death of these stories where ‘women on welfare’ are described the way ACA and Gary Johns have in this story,” said one woman. “I am a mother of four. I am on Newstart (the Dole no longer exists). I receive Family Tax Benefits. And I have two part-time jobs. I also pay tax. Stop putting us all in the same boat. And stop putting the onus on women.”
The topic was soon trending on across Australia on Twitter too.
— Megan Blandford (@MeganBlandford) January 4, 2016
— Paul Kidd²⁰¹⁶ (@paulkidd) January 4, 2016
This has since been picked up by international outlets too with the UK’s Independent criticising both the show and documenting the backlash to Johns himself.
After noting that the side effects of Implanon contraception can include “heavy vaginal bleeding and lower abdominal pain”, they pointed out the omissions of the report. “The programme did not mention if Mr Johns also wished to see men on welfare benefits undergo temporary sterilisation, nor how his logic applied to lesbian women, nor to women who were infertile due to an existing medical condition or old age.”
It’s almost as if the plan was terrible and will never actually amount to anything.
A Current Affair is running a poll on the topic on their website with the majority of viewers agreeing that women on welfare shouldn’t be allowed to procreate. You can vote here.