Louisiana state Rep. David Duke (R), running for governor, says he wants welfare mothers to be encouraged to use birth control, even if it means paying them to do so.
Last week, Duke, a former Ku Klux Klan leader, was responsible for pushing through a House committee legislation aimed at reducing the number of children welfare mothers bear. The bill, which opponents called a "propaganda tool" for Duke, is expected to pass the House, but will face a tougher fight in the Senate.
As originally drafted by Duke, the measure would have granted welfare mothers an extra $100 a year for preventing further pregnancy by using the Norplant birth control implant. Duke amended the bill to include all forms of birth control, including abstinence. Another lawmaker then amended the bill to increase the incentive to $100 a month.
State fiscal experts in the committee indicated the amended bill would have cost nearly $40 million a year. After two hours of contentious debate, Duke removed the cash incentives and gained approval.
While committee members said the bill would accomplish little that is not already state policy under health department regulations, Duke insisted the measure is a significant step. "It will make sure these services are available and it also provides for education as to the availability of those services," he said.
Russell Henderson of the Louisiana American Civil Liberties Union warned the committee that "when Mr. Duke uses the word welfare it is a code word and everyone knows what it means -- black women."