1996).  They directed their efforts primarily towards securing poor and working-class women the economic means for "the housing, food, job, and medical attention [they] needed in order to have a baby if [they] wanted to" rather than an abortion.  While the pro-choice movement was grounded in the privacy argument, Rudy reveals the "Reproductive Rights workers grounded their political beliefs on the idea that women ought to have the material basis to make healthy reproductive choices" (Rudy 1996).

Despite restrictive abortion policies in countries like Ireland, women with resources are still able to successfully have abortions without penalties through the phenomenon of "abortion tourism." Abortion tourism is the incident whereby a woman seeking an abortion travels to another country to obtain it either because it is not permitted in her country or because the conditions under which it is allowed create unwanted hardships (for example, requires doctor's permission and a second doctor's written agreement, parental notification, counseling).  In contrast to women from middle to upper socioeconomic levels who often are the most immune to restrictive government policies governing abortions, women with low socioeconomic status are often without the adequate resources to find alternative routes for obtaining abortions when they have become restricted or illegal in their own countries.

Policy Analysis

According to the model (Table 2), women should have more personal choice in countries like Sweden, which have liberal abortion and maternal welfare policies. In the three combinations, the available choices for women from the lower strata of society become increasingly restricted.  The choices should be the most constraining in a nation with conservative maternal welfare and abortion policies.

Conservative / Conservative: Switzerland

Switzerland demonstrates conservative abortion policy and conservative welfare policy. Under this category, one expects to find policies that severely limit the number of choices available to women from lower socioeconomic strata of the society.  When abortion policies are stringent, women without economic means do not have the option of traveling to a country or district within their country that has more lenient policies.  When abortion tourism is not available because of a lack of funds for abortion, women are left with the option of terminating a pregnancy illegally, and often unsafely, before giving birth or having the child and becoming dependent on the economic support provided by government policy.   Countries that also maintain strict


Table 2
Summary of Abortion Policies

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policies regarding public assistance further limit the options available to a woman with an unwanted pregnancy. The option of motherhood becomes less attractive when a woman is faced with the reality that in her present economic situation she would be dependent on the limited welfare assistance of the government.  Under these conditions, a woman can neither adequately provide for the needs of her child, nor safely terminate the pregnancy.

Welfare Policy:

In Switzerland, the social stigma attached to receiving public assistance acts as an additional choice-limiting factor for women.   Ralph Segalman (1986) argues that a key difference in Switzerland's welfare policy lies in its refusal to tolerate a lack of initiative and its determination to resume a productive role in society after a period on public assistance (Segalman 1986).  The public assistance system is governed at a micro-level by cantons (states) and then, further divided into byalags or local communities (Segalman 1986). Switzerland has insured that primary power remains in the jurisdiction of its 26 cantons.  Consequently, their local model of control enables them to individualize public assistance to achieve the goal of reintroduction of the individual as an independent functioning citizen in the society (Segalman 1986).

In the majority of byalags, public assistance includes "advice counseling, information, and other social services including if necessary, financial and material aid" (Segalman 1986).  The focus is not on distributing financial assistance to individuals in need, but rather, on creating and implementing individualized plans for getting people to the point of self-sufficiency.  If a person chooses not to follow the recommended guidelines for attaining independence, their grant may be reduced or eliminated.  Temporary aid often comes in amounts that are calculated to be less than the client's potential

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