Could Women Game Italy's Pay-For-Babies System?

Illustration for article titled Could Women Game Italys Pay-For-Babies System?

An Italian region has decided to pay women about $300 a month not to have abortions — but what if some women get a little crafty?


According to CNN, the region of Lombardy has created a $6.1 million fund to convince women not to abort. When they come to abortion clinics, low-income women will be offered a payment of $306 every month for 18 months if they carry their pregnancies to term. The move isn't just to prevent abortions — Lombardy also wants to increase its birth rate, and apparently thinks this is a good way to go about doing so. Monetary incentives for having more kids aren't new — Russia tried that one a while back — but actually offering money at abortion clinics is a fresh, weird twist.

Given that there's no way to prove you actually want an abortion, it seems possible for women intending to continue their pregnancies to visit abortion clinics simply to collect the monthly payout. Whether anyone would actually try this probably depends on how unpleasant it is to visit such a clinic at all in a region that also recently decided to ban RU-486. In any case, scamming couldn't become terribly widespread, as the fund only has enough money for about a thousand women.


However, the potential abuse just highlights how poorly Lombardy's chosen to address women's economic insecurity. If it's true, as Lombardy's health department says, that it most women who get abortions in the region do so for economic reasons, then clearly women and families do need help with the monetary aspects of child-rearing. But as Beth Saunders points out on RH Reality Check, raising a child takes a lot longer than 18 months. And bribing women with a small payout isn't the same as actually empowering them to make their own reproductive decisions. Of course, it's cynical to suggest that women might game Lombardy's system to make a little extra cash — but the region's pay-for-babies idea is cynical to begin with. And in terms of actually improving women's ability to raise families when they're ready, it's unlikely to work.

Image via Supri Suharjoto/

Italian Region To Pay Women Not To Have Abortions [CNN]
Women In Italy To Be Offered €4,500 To Not Have Abortions [TimesOnline]
Roundup: Anti-Abortion Payout In Italy [RH Reality Check]

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Where I live in France this would totally work. The median monthly income is 1,000 euros ($1,200) a month. When a woman has a baby, assuming she's under a certain age (not sure if it's 25 or 28) she automatically becomes eligible for the CAF (which pays her rent up to the current median rent prices, her electricity, phone and Internet connections), gets free Creche (think daycare but nicer), unemployment benefits should she want to stay home and care for the child and additional financial assistance for baby food/diapers. The additional 300 a month would put her in a position where her expenses are much lower than if she was single and held a job and her income much higher than if she was single and held a job.

They do sorta do this here now, but in a stranger way. Your benefits skyrocket when you have your third child. This is because of the declining population and the theory that since it takes two people to make a baby, you need to make three babies to increase the population.

In fact, one of my friends initially only wanted to have two children, but decided to get pregnant again last year when she realized that the payouts she'd get for having three children would be far higher than the salary of any job she could realistically be qualified for.

Now that she has three children (she gave birth two months ago) she commented that she's making roughly 25 percent more a month than she was when she was working and had two kids.