Maggie Mellon: You're all missing something very important about the rape clause

Former social worker Maggie Mellon says there may be something far more sinister behind the Tories' so-called 'rape clause'

"SEE this fist? You should have been watching the other one!"

My father used to have a game where he would hold up a clenched fist and say, see this hand? Watch this," and as we watched the hand, he would then bring the other hand up to punch us (gently) on the chin - his message being that it is not the hand being waved in your face you have to watch but the other one coming in with the knock out blow. 

The likelihood of an unexpected blow was one lesson he was keen to pass on to us – or to remind himself of. It is one I often forget as I realise I have been watching the wrong fist just before being sideswiped from the other direction.

It seems it may now have been tacitly accepted that a third child is not acceptable for people on low incomes. How long before child benefits will be removed, and perhaps other benefits too?

I believe that the outrage that has been generated over the rape clause may be helping the Tories to smuggle though an underlying, much more serious attack on our rights with very little comment or protest. 

It seems it may now have been tacitly accepted that a third child is not acceptable for people on low incomes. How long before child benefits will be removed, and perhaps other benefits too?

The nasty little rape clause invented by the Tories was, I believe, a deliberate ruse – a false 'red flag' which disguised the fact that they have apparently successfully inserted into the national consciousness that to have a third child is careless and avoidable.

How long before a third child becomes a publicly unacceptable choice? 

It will be women who will mostly pay the price of and be the butt of censure and satire.

One consequence will surely be a rise in the number of abortions of children. These may be abortions of otherwise wanted children, and also be against the moral or religious beliefs of the mother. 

Hardly anyone will need, and even fewer will want to use, the rape clause, or even the other "coercive relationship" clause. But the way that these exemptions have been the focus of protest rather than the more serious attack on women’s and children’s rights seems to have served the Tories well.

One consequence will surely be a rise in the number of abortions of children. These may be abortions of otherwise wanted children, and also be against the moral or religious beliefs of the mother. 

This is not only a removal of choice solely on the grounds of income, it represents a new frontier in the regulation of private life and moral agency. Abortion is against the religious and moral beliefs of not just Roman Catholics but of many others. 

Even where abortion itself is acceptable to the woman concerned, abortion of otherwise wanted children under the lash of poverty and stigma is an outrage. Believing in the right to choose means supporting women to choose not to have an abortion, and to recognise that an abortion enforced by poverty is not choice, but coercion. 

We must protest against unwanted abortion as strongly as we protest threats to abortion rights.

Third children will now be considered to be a consequence of fecklessness or crime. That is the trick that the rape clause and the concentration of attention on it has accomplished.

Third children will now be considered to be a consequence of fecklessness or crime. That is the trick that the rape clause and the concentration of attention on it has accomplished.

Imagine now having a third child in a poor family. The teasing and jokes about third pregnancies and third children will inevitably feature in our daily life – "it must have been rape then". And imagine being that third child: "Bet your mum was raped"; "Your dad must have been a rapist".

The removal of tax credits will just be the start of the removal of all benefits in relation to third children. We must not allow ourselves to be diverted from the real threat by the cunning ploy of a probably deliberate distraction.

The campaign should be about the attack on third children, not on the prurient details of how a rape clause claim might be made and who would judge it. This allows it to be treated as a matter of getting the process right rather than exposing the bigger trick that is being pulled. 

Of course we should not give the clause house room, but we also need to be sure not to allow it to subtly affect our own thinking in any way. We need to insist that it is not a crime or a carelessness or a fault to have - or indeed to be – a third, fourth or fifth child.

The teasing and jokes about third pregnancies and third children will inevitably feature in our daily life – "it must have been rape then". And imagine being that third child: "Bet your mum was raped"; "Your dad must have been a rapist".

I believe that the message to the government should be this: stop blaming people in poverty for the failures of government, and of the global economy, and get on with the work of government. That is building a sustainable economy, creating decent work, and decent housing for everyone, and ensuring the provision of health care free at the point of need through the NHS, and of state education which fully realises the potential of all children and young people.

The government is instead being allowed to continue to blame and punish the poor for their poverty. And worse, to associate the crimes and evils of rape and coercion with the lives and relationships of women in poverty.

We are in danger of allowing an outrageous clause, one perhaps deliberately created, to distract us from the main blow that is being delivered.

See this fist? You should have been watching the other one.

Picture courtesy of Kiran Foster

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Comments

MauriceBishop

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 17:04

Yes, you are right, what we should be discussing is whether or not benefits should be paid for the third child. Although, I note, that you should have had the good judgement to refrain from framing this as "the attack on third children".

However, the SNP are not engaging with this rational question. Instead they are going with all this hyperbolic "rape clause" nonsense because in fact the public SUPPORTS the two child cap.

There is nothing "nasty" or "sinister" going on here. Stopping the automatic payment child benefit after the second child is perfectly sensible. As is making a simple and reasonable accommodation for women who become pregnant with their third child as a result of rape and who decide that they want to receive child benefit in this rare circumstance.

If you want to have ten children, best wishes to you.

Frankie

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 19:35

MauriceBishop
"in fact the public SUPPORTS the two child cap"

How do you come to this conclusion?

DougieBlackwood

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 19:56

I'm sorry but I thought this was obvious. The rape clause is a get out of jail card for a nasty policy that makes it more difficult for poor people to have more than 2 children.

In this world where we have a rapidly aging population it is essential that we increase the percentage of the population that are working and paying taxes. In a few years it will be necessary to cut the benefits that the older generation have worked for, paid for and expect as an entitlement. This is because we will not have enough coming in to support these rights.

We have two options: either encourage bigger families by financial incentives or encourage working age economic migrants to fill the gap. In truth we need both of these things to be part of our population policy. It is too late for the natural growth of population and we will hit the buffers long before we can generate and mature enough children to take up the slack.

Can you imaging the xenophobic Tory/UKIP government that we will have for the next generation encouraging migrants? In the end we need an independent Scotland with a different mindset and different policies from those we will see over the coming years.

alcorpage

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 20:54

This legislation could be construed as being discriminatory against practising Roman Catholics whose faith proscribes other than "natural" contraception methods. My 1st wifes' great-grandmother, had 22 children. My 1st wife, after conceiving our 3rd son proscibed any sexual relations. I privately had a vascectomy (with her mothers & sisters approval) but the parish priest told her to leave me, and that was the beginning of the end of our marriage. This "law" does not respect religious faiths & beliefs.

Fiona McOwan

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 21:12

We definitely need a different policy on this and many other topics. We are never going to get what we need from this Tory government.

JeanetteMcCrimmon

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 23:30

The SNP are totally opposed to the two child tax credit cap on social security for children.

RobbieP1953

Sat, 05/27/2017 - 00:11

All children are born equal and should receive the same support regardless of anything else.

noeldarlow

Sat, 05/27/2017 - 01:19

Children are not lifestyle accessories like cars and widescreen TVs. Children are our future. Everybody's future (especially with an ageing demographic, as has already been pointed out). It is absurd to view children as the individual responsibility of their parents. As a social animal we can't have individual success without group success and the group cannot succeed unless it constantly renews itself.

Phearran

Sat, 05/27/2017 - 03:46

A major point o yer post is that the government policy is sensible but ye gie nae raison tae shaw *why* it wad be sensible.

A dinnae think the cap's sensible, acause haein bairns isnae a privilege fur the rich. Three bairns isnae even a feck o bairns either.

An the rape clause wad increase the chance o the bairn kennin thair ma wis rapit. It wad even increase the chance o it bein public knawledge.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/may/21/two-child-cap-child-bene...

Craxy_Bitch_2000

Sat, 05/27/2017 - 14:02

Why do you think that "rekigious groups" deserve any consideration under the law? Deluded thinking should be treated by medication, not pandering

Craxy_Bitch_2000

Sat, 05/27/2017 - 14:07

Straw polls amongst my circles of friends and colleagues do suggest that a limit be placed on the number of children that should be in receipt of government support - it has been suggested that more than 4 should not only not be in receipt of benefits but should actively be punitively taxed.

I can only judge things by asking people - how do you go about it? I suppose it depends who you ask, though, net tax payers will doubtless have a different viewpoint from net tax takers (the cut off point sees to be around the threshold of higher rate income tax - something, of course, which is within the shortbread senate's remit to vary)

abigtreehugger

Sat, 05/27/2017 - 16:20

Actually I have found this whole debate quite interesting, being Roman Catholic I do find the policy very discimnatory. That however wasn't to be my point. I honestly believe the Tories have not actually thought this policy through properly. They will, because of their fiscal resources live longer than the average person. They are also the ones who will be able to afford to have two plus children. But somebody coming from a privelaged Tory family won't be looking for a job in a care home or hospice. However apart from the low income families children retisence to look after them, this policy will mean that there are far fewer people coming from lower income backgrounds. No society fares well when there is no factory fodder and thats just how the world runs.

inverschnecky

Sat, 05/27/2017 - 18:21

Fantastic article and a chilling vision of the future.

This land has been cleared for the rich by the rich. In 1707 we made up 1/3 of the islands population, now we are 8.4%. It seems that our imperial masters believe the ethnic cleansing of the poor isn't happening fast enough.

Now IS the time to walk away from the racists, the bankers and the bigots, all of whom are found in the ranks of the charmless tories.

The tories have thought this through - they will employ the stateless the desperate and the deport-able (and voteless) - the same model found in the gulf states. No need for the inconvenience of democracy with strong and stable 'government'....

Peter Dow

Sat, 05/27/2017 - 19:47

Agreed.

Now for the fight-back campaign which should be for as many women as are willing to have AT LEAST 3 children.

Certainly I am ready to do my bit by fathering children if I am wanted by any woman for that task.

Call me ladies and let's get that 3rd child born ASAP - Tel Aberdeen 01224 583906

Craxy_Bitch_2000

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 11:30

Don't give them your number Peter, or for that matter your real name.

Craxy_Bitch_2000

Sun, 05/28/2017 - 14:29

There exists, within the UK, a cultural group (actually two, to be honest) so hell-bent on in-breeding that the incidence of serious life changing genetic issues amongst their offspring is so prevalent that it will be a major drain on resources in years to come.

Would we, as a society, not be better served by paying them a lump-sum not to breed through a programme of rewarded sterilisation?

Discuss!

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