ty service) within 24 months of receiving TANF to avoid cancellation or reduction of their benefits (Golonka, Ryan, and Steisel 1996).

In 1993, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) was passed in the United States. As a result, employees are able to secure 12 weeks of unpaid leave.  According to Lise Vogel (1993), "the Family and Medical Leave Act reflects years of feminist efforts to extend the equality framework to incorporate the female-specific needs of motherhood" (Vogel 1993).  Similar to the formation of abortion policy, FMLA was the result of efforts made primarily by middle-class women reformers.  Richard Marcus (1994) explains that the FMLA provides for the:

'Care of a family member with a serious health condition, for personal medical disability due to pregnancy or childbirth,' for the care of a child born, adopted or placed in child care within one year or for personal illness leave 'due to serious health condition.'

Although this helps middle- and upper-class women with the demands of working and raising a family, most poor and working-class women are unable to afford to take 12 days off from work without pay.   Vogel points to political theorist Zillah Eisenstein who was skeptical of the "use [of the FMLA] to poor and working-class women, arguing that it actually bolsters class inequality. In the name of sex neutrality, economic class privilege is simply institutionalized along sexual lines" (Vogel 1993).

Abortion Policy:

Since the 1973 Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade, American women have been able to have elected abortions without interference up to the point of viability. After this period, the states are permitted to regulate abortions provided that it is with the interest of protecting the woman's health.  At the point of viability, which the Supreme Court estimates as occurring between the 24th and 28th weeks, states are entitled to regulate abortion with the interest of protecting the fetus.

Later in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania v. Casey (1992), the Supreme Court ruled that federal and state governments have the right at any time during the pregnancy to encourage "childbirth and to promote informed and thoughtful decision-making by women."  However, the governments can only do so provided that their regulations do not pose any "undue burden" to a woman seeking to abort a nonviable fetus (Casey Slip Opinion 30-34; Wetstein 1996).

 

Withholding federal assistance for abortion was not seen as an "undue burden" by the Supreme Court in Webster v. Reproductive Health. Rudy (1996) observes:

The Supreme Court[...] declared that although the government would allow abortion, no public money (and no hospital or health care provider who received public money) could be used to support abortion. This decision verified that the government would no longer support women's "private" needs for abortion with "public" funds.

The fact that federal moneys and facilities are no longer available to women means that abortion funding is left to the discretion of the states. Conservative states like Utah and Louisiana are able to deny women money for abortions, thereby adding to the difficulty for poor and working-class women to obtain abortions.  Glendon (1987) articulates the significance of the abortion situation in the United States by pointing to the dilemma it places upon poor and working­class women. Glendon (1987) argues:

[W]hat seems most troubling about the American abortion-funding cases is... that their total legal context discourages pregnant poor women, single or married, both from continuing with the pregnancy and from getting abortions.

The Supreme Court and Congress have also consistently approved of the federal and state governments' right to deny Medicaid funds for elective abortions in favor of medically necessary abortions and child-rearing (Beal v. Doe 1977, Maher v. Roe 1977, Poelker v. Doe 1977, Harris v. Mc Rae 1980, which upheld the Hyde Amendment, and Webster v. Reproductive Health Services 1989). The absence of lenient maternal welfare policy has the potential for constraining access to abortion for women from poor and working-class backgrounds.  The coupling of liberal elective abortion policies with conservative policies on abortion funding and maternal welfare produces a situation of narrow choice for poor and working-class women.

Liberal/ Liberal: Sweden

Liberal abortion and maternal welfare policies work in conjunction to provide women with low socioeconomic status the widest scope of choices for important life decisions, especially for decisions pertaining to unwanted or unplanned pregnancies.  Sweden is the most likely Western model for a nation that provides both liberal maternal welfare and abortion policies for its citizenry.  While in the past Sweden has been looked to as a model welfare state, recent economic hardships have placed this once admired system into question.

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Johanna Wilson - Women's Choices in the Western World: A... [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]