Forced contraception for ‘vulnerable’ women is happening in the UK

A UK charity is offering support for “vulnerable” [pdf, p63] women who have had social services take their children away from them.

But if they want this support, they first have to agree to take contraception to stop them having any more kids. If you were wondering whether Eugenics was still alive and kicking, your question has been answered.

Pause for thought

“Pause” was founded by social worker Sophie Humphreys. Originally operating in Hackney, after the Department for Education got involved in 2015 it expanded [pdf, p13] to six other local authorities. Three years and £millions of lottery and ‘Tampon Tax’ money later, and Pause now operates 20 “practices” across the country.

Essentially, it supports women who have had multiple children removed by social services or other government agencies. It is aimed at women who, if they fell pregnant again, would be at risk of having that child taken away. These are people with complex circumstances, often involving domestic violence, drug or alcohol abuse and other factors.

Pause uses a helpful Venn diagram to show the range of support services it offers. The goal being to “break destructive cycles”:

Asset-1-100.jpg

Pregnancy reduction

As a government evaluation of Pause noted [pdf, p6], one of the benchmarks of its success is:

to what extent is the Pause model effective in reducing the numbers of children removed from women’s care?

This evaluation, from 2017, answered its own question – deeming the programme a success. It said [pdf, p7] Pause was:

extremely effective in reducing the number of pregnancies experienced by women during their 18-month interventions. While 2 women became pregnant during their time with Pause, it is estimated that between 21 and 36 pregnancies would have occurred, had the cohort of 125 women not been engaged in the programme. Given the women’s histories, these pregnancies would have been likely to have resulted in removals

So, why is Pause so effective in reducing women’s pregnancies while they are on its programme? A condition of joining the programme is that they have to take contraception during it. When I saw Pause on BBC London News and realised what it was about I was literally gobsmacked.

Women who have gone through the programme, politicians and local government chiefs welcome Pause’s approach and achievements.

For me, it is little more than 21st century Eugenics.

Selective breeding

This pseudoscience was popular at the turn of the last century and still holds traction in some quarters today. Essentially, its proponent’s claimed that to ensure the continued progression of us as a species, certain groups in society should not be allowed to reproduce. This was because the idea of ‘nature’ over ‘nurture’ deemed that, as Harold Laski, chair of the Fabian Society from 1946-48 and chair of the Labour Party from 1945-46, noted [pdf, p5]:

Bad stock produces bad stock; the able produce the able; the strong produce the strong.

So, Eugenicists like Laski believed that defective humans should not be allowed to have children. As he noted [pdf, p11] in a 1910 essay:

Extreme emphasis must be laid on the danger of breeding from the unfit at the expense of the fit. Statistical proof of this is ready to hand. In the first place, it is necessary always to bear in mind that half of one generation is produced by a quarter of its predecessor. If this is the case, it is surely of importance that marriages should be selective. If only a small proportion of parents are mentally or physically unfit to take the burden of reproduction upon themselves, the danger of their doing so is obvious.

Laski went on to say [pdf, p12] that of the “pathological stocks”:

The birth-rate among the London mentally defective per family is 7; in Manchester it is 6.3. Dr. Goring has estimated that the fertility in criminal stocks is 6.6; in English deaf-mutes it is 6.2; among albinos it is as high as 5.9. In the families which use the schools for the feeble-minded, the average number of offspring is 7.3. The only conclusion to which these statistics point is that the unfit stock is increasing at the expense of the fit.

Mentally defective” was a catch-all term, used to describe “idiots”, the “feeble-minded”, the “morally defective”, criminals, unmarried mothers and drunks. In other words, large swathes of the poor.

Fast-forward to 2019, and for me the similarities between Eugenics and the Pause programme are frightening. Yet it appears we as a society have learned nothing from our past errors.

Dressing up the undressable

Pause dresses up its programme as something that:

recognises the women with whom we work as individuals, rather than defining them by the issues and challenges they face. Every Pause programme is driven by the woman and her needs.

It also says that it fosters relationships “where women are valued and respected for who they are”.

Yet this is juxtaposed with forced contraception. To be clear, I’m not saying the people behind the founding of the Pause programme are Eugenicists. Nor am I saying that they are fully aware of the gravity of what they are pushing. But as an organisation, forcing contraception upon certain demographics in society is a slippery slope. One that we’re already on.

Social engineering

Over the past ten years, we have already seen poorer families coerced or economically nudged into not having more children. The two child limit on tax credits is one example of this. As I wrote for The Canary in 2017, other factors at play include:

  • Wage increases not keeping pace with inflation since 2007/08.
  • Child poverty increasing to one in four children, possibly putting poorer parents off having any more children.
  • Benefits being frozen at 2015 rates.
  • Health inequality between the richest and poorest remaining “persistent“, according to the government’s own analysis. For example, NHS England found the poorest people had 71% more emergency admissions to hospital than the richest [pdf, p4].

All this, as I wrote, had by 2017 resulted in a fall in the birthrates among the poorest in society, with those considered in the lowest group (the persistently unemployed/sick/disabled people) having fallen by a staggering 33%. Meanwhile, the richest were actually having more children.

This is no coincidence. As we see with Universal Credit, government targeting of the poorest in society to push them to its fringes is intentional. A corporate dystopian future is being ushered in. And Pause’s programme of effectively stopping mothers having children in return for support is part of this.

But there are other worrying aspects of the programme, too.

Safeguarding concerns

As the government evaluation from 2017 noted, Pause deals with “vulnerable” women. It said that:

A number of Practitioners reported that supporting women to get a correct diagnosis for previously undiagnosed mental health conditions, and cognitive or physical disabilities, was a high priority, not least because it entitled them to certain benefits. Undiagnosed learning difficulties also made some women vulnerable to various forms of exploitation and abuse (including sexual and financial abuse), as they had little, or no, formal support in place prior to Pause. As a result of practical support to access health services (and also, in some cases, direct advocacy within those services), several women received appropriate diagnoses that entitled them to improved support from health, social care, and housing services…

So essentially, you’re taking women who you’ve already labelled as “vulnerable” and then forced contraception upon them before they’ve even had treatment for physical or mental health conditions? Or women who are survivors of sexual, physical and mental abuse? Also [pdf, p30] learning disabled women have been on the programme. I’d be interested to know what safeguarding was in place to ensure these women were making an informed choice when they entered Pause.

Systematic misogyny?

Also of note was that the evaluation found [pdf, p34] that most women had “experienced relatively high levels of domestic violence, compared to women in the general population”. But by contrast it said:

Analyses of alcohol and drug consumption indicate that most Pause women did not fall into established ‘higher risk’ or ‘problematic’ categories. However, the consumption levels of a significant minority either fluctuated into, or remained stable at, a high level.

So, most women on the first trials of Pause were survivors of domestic violence and not addicts. And yet, the programme puts the emphasis on them to change? For me, this is staggering systematic misogyny.

Broken families

I found nothing on Pause’s website about working towards mothers getting their children back. There is a very telling line that says:

The women who work with Pause are encouraged and supported to take a proactive role in giving their children ‘permission’ to settle and attach to the people looking after them, which can relieve the child’s stress and guilt.

For me, this sets alarm bells ringing. Why, if the Pause programme was so successful, would the ultimate end goal not to be to restore the family unit?

Forced adoption?

Forced adoption in the UK has historically been a boom industry for local authorities, and we’re one of only three countries in the EU that allows this. The latest craze to sweep the forced adoption industry is cases of Fabricated and Induced Illness (FII), which used to be known as Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSBP). Check out campaign group Fiightback‘s work on this.

Local authorities and third sector organisations run Pause practices. Some councils set targets for adoption numbers. Put two and two together, and you have somewhere like Hull, where the city council runs a Pause programme, and the county council (East Riding of Yorkshire) has historically conducted adoptions in a targeted manner. I can hear the social workers now: ‘C’mon, Billy will be better off with his new family. You’re too damaged. Let him have the life he deserves while you get yourself better and give yourself some time for you, for once…’

Of course, this may all be conjecture from me. Make your own minds up.

Nudging away

The involvement of local authorities raises concerns for me over the whole “voluntary” notion of the Pause programme. If the same organisation which operates social services now also run a rehabilitation programme, any notion of women having a choice over going on it goes out of the window.

Don’t tell me that nefarious social workers haven’t already threatened mothers with the removal of their remaining child/children, or restricted access to their removed children, if they don’t join Pause and take the contraception required. I would imagine its also used as leverage in family courts by now.

It’s the same, dictatorial “nudge” culture that pervades the Department for Work and Pensions’ (DWP) “conditionality” for getting welfare. Things are voluntary on paper. In reality, they’re not. Read Sue Jones’ excellent work on the government’s application of economic nudge theory as a social engineering tool.

Moreover, involving local authorities brings the Pause programme into the political arena. Entrenched views of families who live in certain postcodes predisposes the programme to have made decisions about the women involved before they even start it. Moreover, it is already dealing with women who probably feel society has already left them “out of options”. Just one more ‘nudge’ and they’ll agree to go on the Pause programme.

But with Pause, one of the biggest challenges we face is that many working class people will welcome this.

Psychosocial warfare

We’ve had a ‘drip-drip-drip’ of demonising propaganda and ‘divide and conquer’ psychosocial warfare against people on welfare, single mothers, “criminals”, drug users and alcoholics for decades. It was hyper-effective throughout the Thatcher/Major/Blair/Brown/Cameron and May years.

So much so, that one family on a council estate will cheer when another family is evicted, has their children taken away or are sent to prison. I’ve witnessed it firsthand, repeatedly.

It’s what Jeremy Kyle was all about. Only middle class, metropolitan commentators would have called this noxious show ‘poverty porn’ or ‘exploitative’. The real motivation behind Kyle’s horror series was to pit working class people against working class people. Because after all, it was probably working class people claiming welfare that mostly watched it.

‘Look at them!’ we were encouraged to say. ‘Scum! So-and-so round the corner is just like them! I wish the council would do something about them. Kyle would rip them to shreds!’.

Divide and conquer. Bread and circuses.

I mean, even the Spectator said that Kyle was akin to a Roman amphitheatre, ushering in its victims “through separate, colour-coded corridors after being told lies about their opponents’ views so they fought (sometimes physically) for the cameras, not backstage or in makeup”. All while slightly less working class people bayed and cheered.

Moreover, as Faye Davies wrote for flowjournal.org, Kyle was all about cementing class hierarchy:

Kyle is the middle class man, well dressed, directing the discussion from a standing position. This is presented in opposition to the underclass, which presented as sitting down, being spoken to (or more clearly ‘at’) by Kyle. Our middle class representative is the one in control – of information, of audience interaction and of ultimate judgement about social behavior and action/inaction…

In shows such as these there can be no ultimate challenge to the sense that the middle-class authority and judgement should be the one that is dominant.

It’s this Jeremy Kyle culture, coupled with relentless government propaganda, that will allow Pause to continue with very little opposition – even from some of the very communities which should oppose it with every fibre of their being.

Papering over the cracks

As professor Brid Featherstone told BBC News, it looks like Pause “links to a notion of conditional welfare”. She said:

We need to think about this and talk about this, particularly because there are other projects that work with this group of women that achieve good results without requiring them to take contraception.

It opens up big ethical questions. I think it’s a fundamental human right being able to have a child.

At best, Pause is an effective establishment tool at papering over the gaping cracks in the foundations of the society we live in. It, knowingly or not, is helping to prop up the very system that causes the problems it deals with, in the first place.

We see this with many ‘solutions’ to human problems. For example, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) for the disease myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), where patients effectively suppress their symptoms by thinking happy thoughts. This makes up for the appalling lack of research funding and keeps the psychiatry industry churning. Or council’s fining people for not recycling properly and London’s Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ), essentially taxing poor people when around 71% of greenhouse gas emissions over the last 30 years have come from just 100 corporations.

The onus is always on the individual; the one who clings onto the bottom rungs of society. It’s your problem. You’re at fault. You need to fix yourself. This is exactly what Pause is doing. As it admits, it:

encourages women to… take responsibility for their actions.

It ignores the embedded problems we have as a species – patriarchy, misogyny, intentional, structural and systematic inequality and hierarchical sociopathy.

It employs the basics of nudge economic theory to change the behaviours of those involved and make them ‘acceptable’ citizens. If it really wanted to (as it claims [pdf, p13]) ‘break destructive cycles’ and allow women to ‘take control of their lives’, it might like to start with some political education about how the system intentionally traps them in their circumstances in the first place.

This is Pause at best.

Complicit in 21st century Eugenics?

At worst, it is complicit in 21st century Eugenics. From Universal Credit, to social cleansing via the gig economy, we are witnessing a return to Victorian-era thinking about poor people. That is, that those who do as they’re told, contribute to the system and eek out their existence without bothering the Establishment and the state, are of use to the system. They have financial value.

Chronically ill, sick and disabled people, those living with mental health issues, single mothers, homeless people, migrants and the ‘work shy’ are of no capital. They are of no use to the system. One UN committee said that successive UK governments has helped create an environment where disabled people are viewed as:

parasites, living on social benefits… and [living on] the taxes of other people…

UN special rapporteur on extreme poverty Philip Alston recently said of successive UK governments that they had “tasked” the DWP:

with designing a digital and sanitized version of the nineteenth century workhouse, made infamous by Charles Dickens…

This is no accident. It has been intentional. So, by endorsing the notion that some women are unfit to be mothers, Pause is playing right into the modern day Eugenicist’s hands.

Either the people behind Pause are middle class do-gooders, blinded by their own self-righteousness, or they are complicit in this disgusting social engineering. I think its probably a combination of both.

I’ve given up writing full time to support my partner Nic, who lives with ME and 14 other diseases and illnesses. You can read about her journey here. Most of her medical treatment now has to be private; a challenge in itself with no income.

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One comment

  1. But it’s absolutely fine to pass by while women continue to have child after child while they’re still in circumstances that will mean the baby is removed? This is supposed to be child-centred and yes sometimes kids need to be taken away from situations like neglect or DV where they are not being looked after or protected But ultimately council services are stretched, it’s expensive to take kids away and the adoption process is lengthy. It’s also expensive to run interventions like this. It’s not the simple option that’s presented here.

    “So essentially, you’re taking women who you’ve already labelled as “vulnerable” and then forced contraception upon them before they’ve even had treatment for physical or mental health conditions?”

    Absolutely fine though for them to get pregnant in circumstances which are likely to increase physical or mental health problems, and THEN treat the problems which may themselves have led to repeated pregnancies that the woman can’t cope with in her particular circumstances at that time? Asking to commit to contraception use is a way of committing to the programme, which seems to me to be the equivalent of asking a drug user to stop or manage their drug use in an agreed way while they’re in rehab.

    Abusers are great at selecting vulnerable targets. Women who have been the target of domestic violence once are more likely to end up in another relationship where there’s DV and I wonder what you think will help to stop this happening? Supporting women to achieve some sense of control over their lives is potentially empowering them to stop this cycle, and that IMO is worthwhile.

    Like

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