By Michael Laws
One of the great moral disasters of our time is that our society lets inadequate people have children. In fact, it doesn't just allow the pathetic to become parents, it positively encourages it.
We do so through a social welfare system originally designed to stop such folk starving on the streets. Now we encourage the feckless and the failed to reproduce themselves. We particularly offer such women financial encouragement to forgo any form of work or self-improvement. Instead we send an explicit message: breed and we will reward you.
The irony of this post-modern truth is that we all know it, but turn away from the consequences. Whether conservative or liberal, salaried or self-employed, waged or welfared, we all appreciate that there is a tribe of people having children, who should not be having them.
They have neither the aptitude nor the attitude, the responsibility nor the resources to care for their kids. But they do. This is our underclass – a consummation of our inappropriate compassion and our insane belief that something good can come of something bad.
I usually make such observations when discussing this country's chronic child abuse problems. The number of murder and manslaughter cases over past years has given New Zealanders a nasty entrance point into understanding our underclass. Everything about them appears alien to us, most especially the environment that they create for their children.
In 2010, Child Youth and Family authenticated over 25,000 cases of child abuse. Just in that year. Maori were disproportionately represented in both child death and child abuse statistics, but people of every race are represented.
And at the extreme end of these statistics there is always a question as to what we should do. What is the appropriate policy response to this tsunami of neglect and nastiness. The current Green Paper exercise is intended to probe public perceptions but it has already been dominated by lobby groups and liberal activists. Any tougher sanctions will be strangled by the Wellington bureaucracy – the same people who delivered the anti-smacking legislation.
And yet is there a nascent hope in the dreadful news this past week of two more babies killed, one by a mentally-ill Christchurch mother and the other by a drunk mum in Rotorua?
Both cases make for distasteful recall. In the former, a 29-year-old woman committed infanticide upon her infant daughter soon after birth. She then stuffed the body in a wardrobe until discovered by her own mother some 45 days later.
Incredibly this deranged "mum" was already under court-ordered supervision for doing the same thing a year earlier. Wow – some "supervision". She was able to get jiggy, get pregnant and give birth without – it appears – anyone being any the wiser.
The presiding judge opined at the woman's sentencing last week that it would be a good idea that this not happen again. She was sentenced to a mental health care unit "for the foreseeable future" but will now have mandatory contraceptive injections "and must tell her probation officer if she becomes pregnant again".
The other case involves Ngaire Kura Tukiwhao, a 30-year-old from Rotorua who was convicted of the manslaughter of her two-month-old son. She had got drunk, got into a fight with her partner, got in the back of a car and fallen asleep. In that latter action she had suffocated her son.
She will go to jail. But look at her history. Her son was her fifth child – two others are in CYF care and a third is with the birth father. The fourth was a victim of sudden infant death syndrome.
And yet this country and all its agencies have continued to allow Tukiwhao to have children. We have stood by and intervened only after more children are born, neglected and/or abused, and damaged for life. We will see these maimed kids again when they enter our justice and welfare systems in a few years' time.
But oh no, it's better to let people breed than do the right thing. Sterilise them. Failing that, pay them not to breed. Stop them from ever having children. The truth is that hundreds and very possibly thousands of New Zealand women are not equipped to be mothers. They have neither the intellect, the empathy nor the responsibility to ever be anything other than they are. But we let them. And if they have no firm prospects in life – neither ambition nor aspiration – we financially entice them into maternity.
This is the crazy consequence of surmising and supposing that having a child is an inalienable right. It is time to say, that it is not. Society has a duty to determine the calibre and character of its future generations. And that right is greater.
Sunday Star Times, 22nd April 2012