Marriage Promotion, Reproductive Injustice, and the War Against Poor Women of Color

Marriage is not the cure-all for poor women, as Republicans would have you believe


| March 31, 2005


It's a policy proposal that smacks of the gossip's hiss, 'She just needs a good man.'

The idea, touted by the Bush administration and garnering bipartisan support, is that marriage will lift poor women out of poverty and provide a stable environment for their families. And, just in case the concept doesn't inspire a rash of weddings, Republicans want the 'Healthy Marriage Initiative' to give reluctant brides-to-be the push they need in the form of welfare incentives. No husband? No extra cash bonus; no boost in welfare checks. Won't marry that man you're living with? That'll come out of your monthly welfare check.

As writer Sarah Olson demonstrates in dollars&sense, it's a perverse political maneuver, given that between 50 and 60 percent of women on welfare have been domestically abused (compared to 22 percent in the general population).

The initiative is just one in a litany of efforts Olson cites in the Republican drive to get welfare moms under control. More than $100 million has been diverted in the Department of Health and Human Services to promote marriage. 'Child exclusion' rules in 21 states prevent a woman from collecting benefits for more than one child (just a different version of the forced sterilization that occurred in the 1940s). And millions have been allocated for marriage research. What's not included in these efforts are programs to train women for good jobs instead of subsistence level, no-growth employment opportunities (although one program cited in the piece did involve job-training, it was available only to fathers). And according to Olson, we can only expect more of the same when welfare reform is reauthorized.
-- Hannah Lobel

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