Wednesday, 7 November 2012

The radical notion of a nation that helps new mothers

Are you truly prolife? As such, are you committed to making sure every new mother has the support she needs to cope with the demands of bringing a new human being into the world? Are you happy for your taxes to help support these women? 

Or are you part of the "if you can't feed 'em, don't breed 'em" brigade? Do you believe all women should carry their pregnancies to term but once they've given birth, they're on their own? No support from the state of any description? Hell, why not just ban all abortions and force women to give up their kids for adoption if they don't meet some arbitrary standard of wealth? For that is the slippery slope on which you are sliding down if that's your outlook on life.

If you are serious about reducing the rate of abortions, consider the situation in The Netherlands. Yesterday, my friend and I took her two-week-old daughter to a local authority-run clinic. Here she was weighed, advice is offered on any issues the mother may have, such as breastfeeding, and the baby's general health and wellbeing is monitored. The parents are given a book in which the child's medical records are filled in up until the child turns four. After that, the child's health is then primarily taken care of through medical staff at schools. 

Obviously, taxes help pay for this, but given the outcome is a nation of healthy children, why would anyone who professes to be prolife be opposed to this? Wanting to reduce abortion is one thing but making sure babies grow into healthy children, regardless of how much money the parents have, is not socialism gone mad. It's about as prolife as it gets. 

Then there is the amazing kraamzorg service, funded by compulsory national insurance contributions. In the 34th week of the pregnancy, a kraamverzorgster (a qualified maternity nurse) will visit the mother to discuss whether she wants a home birth or a hospital birth. With 30% of babies born at home in the Netherlands, the kraamzorg service has done much to reduce infant mortality, another prolife concept surely. 

After the birth, the kraamverzorgster will visit the mother at home, usually eight times at four hours a time, to check on the mother and baby and to assist in whatever way is appropriate on that day. My friend reported that her kraamverzorgster performed all manner of tasks, such as helping with the housework as well as offering advice and healthcare services. On one occasion, the kraamverzorgster simply looked after the baby so my friend could have a much-needed four-hour nap. If pregnant women embark on their journey from here to maternity knowing that they will be supported, that is a great incentive to carry to term, to embrace motherhood. Are any prolife people seriously going to tell me that this is a bad idea?

The Netherlands also offers 16 weeks of maternity leave on full pay, which comes from the General Unemployment Fund. This is funded by contributions from employees and employers. It's not the best scheme in Europe but it is a hell of a lot better than many other supposedly civilised nations. 

On top of that, fathers have a right to paid paternity leave to attend the birth of their child, two days off in the first four weeks of the baby's life and paid time off to register the birth of the baby. For mothers and fathers who have worked for their current employer for at least a year, they can take a specified amount of non-paid parental leave to care for biological, adopted or foster children with a six-month period in the first eight years of the child's life.

The abortion rate in The Netherlands is one of the lowest in the world at 8.7 per 1,000 women aged 15-44. Interestingly, studies have shown slight increases in abortion rates among women from migrant backgrounds, from cultures where there is often shame associated with being pregnancy out of wedlock or where contraception use may be discouraged or access to information on contraception restricted. This is a stark contrast to the famously open attitudes to sex of the Netherlands. 

It is a common catchcry of conservatives that migrants should embrace the values of their adopted country. In the case of the Netherlands, migrants who embrace decidedly non-conservative Dutch values of openness about sex, comprehensive sex education and easy access to birth control and abortion, can expect to enjoy the benefits of a low abortion rate and low rate of teen and unplanned pregnancy. A lack of stigma surrounding motherhood outside of wedlock is another reason why the abortion rate is low. There is a lot to be said for not slut-shaming women who have sex without a marriage certificate.

And when women of all backgrounds in the Netherlands are pregnant, they can enjoy living in a country where their choice to carry to term is respected and supported beyond the foetal stage. It's not about the government making choices for women, as if women are somehow too stupid and helpless to know what is best for their bodies. It's about creating nations where women can easily make their own choices, whatever those choices may be. That's why prochoice nations are truly prolife.  

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1 comment:

  1. Clearly The Netherlands is a Nasty Communist Nanny State full of hippies and bludgers and probably tree-hugging lesbian dolphins, too. (Good rant!)