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

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

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

Go there >>
Promotion, Reproductive Injustice, and the War Against Poor Women
of Color

Related Links:

Related Links from the Utne

Comments? Story tips?
Write a letter to the editor

Like this? Want more?Subscribe to Utne

In-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.