earning power as a further incentive to return or become equipped to work. Furthermore, should a client become affluent at a later date, it is possible for the community to seek repayment for public assistance the individual received in the past.   Only the validly aged or infirmed are provided with a steady grant under this model.  One of the benefits of the communal structure is the ability of case workers to effectively hold families accountable for assisting family members in need before considering government assistance. In cases of divorce, fathers are also responsible for providing child-care payments.

In Switzerland, communities are closely knit. Segalman observes that "[m]any communities function on a town hall basis... most decisions... must be ratified either by an election or a meeting of all electors" (Segalman 1986).  This closeness functions as an indirect deterrent for individuals to deviate from communal norms, especially the norm of self-reliance. At the same time, communities are more aware of the needs of the individuals within it and are more apt to provide communal assistance through opportunities for employment or training, in order to prevent individuals from becoming dependent on public assistance.

Abortion Policy:

The abortion law in Switzerland is one of the oldest in the Western world (enacted in Switzerland in 1942).  While there have been attempts to amend the Penal Code, these have been unsuccessful. The laws governing abortions in Switzerland­Articles 118 to 121 of the Swiss Penal Code­permit abortions only on medical grounds.  To obtain an abortion, a woman must give written consent to the doctor and also receive a second opinion from an additional doctor­which concurs with her decision for termination.

With regard to funding for abortions Anne-Marie Rey observes that:

In principle, termination of pregnancy has to be paid for by social insurance. But since health insurance is not compulsory in Switzerland... some terminations will not be paid by insurance.  For poor women, social welfare will have to provide the means (Eggert and Rolston eds. 1994).

Given the close knit communities of Switzerland, however, it may be difficult to obtain abortions in largely Catholic cantons since welfare is often highly individualized and often at the discretion of the social workers.

Despite the de jure stringency of abortion law in Switzerland, de facto practices are more lenient.  The cleavage between the law and actual practice is not consistent throughout Switzerland, but varies according to


canton.  Abortion practice is lenient in most cantons, especially so in Basel City, Geneva, Berne, Neuchatel, Zurich, and Vaud.  There remain a few cantons, though, which maintain stringent abortion policies. These include the highly Catholic cantons of the central region­Appenzell Inner Rhodes, Nidwald, Obwald and Uri­where no abortions occur.

Conservative/ Liberal: Republic of Ireland

In theory, a country with conservative abortion policies and liberal welfare policies should provide women with more incentives to carry their pregnancies to term through generous welfare policies and prevent abortions through lack of funding and stringent prohibitive laws. Even if a woman has no interest in carrying her pregnancy to term, it would be more advantageous under this structure to opt for motherhood or giving the child up for adoption.  The Republic of Ireland, hereafter referred to as Ireland, demonstrates these conservative abortion and liberal welfare policies.

Welfare policy:

In Ireland, the social welfare system operates under three main branches: social insurance, social assistance, and universal benefits.   According to Mel Cousins, Ireland currently spends one third of the government budget on the social welfare system (1995).  Given the vast resources dedicated to social welfare in Ireland, one would assume that the government would somehow compensate for its essentially prohibitive abortion policies with comprehensive assistance programs for poor and unwed mothers. While things appear to be changing in this direction, welfare policy in the recent past failed to address the needs of child-care and continued to support patriarchy by indirectly delivering funds to the breadwinner (male of the household).  The European Union directive on Equal Treatment for Men and Women in terms of Social Security in 1984 forced Ireland to reform its social welfare system.   This directive was created to erase the gender bias implicit in payment procedures and definitions of adult dependents, and particularly to reform the social insurance procedures to end inferior benefits for married women (Cousins 1995).  Cousins illustrates the patriarchal bias in welfare policy by showing that despite the universal child benefit, there is little support for families in Ireland's social welfare system.   Cousins argues that "despite the support for the nuclear family, there has been little support for women in the home, or for women during pregnancy and maternity (except for women at work; 1995).  This observation runs contrary to the expectation that a country with stringent abortion policies will compensate in its welfare policies by providing aid for women who are either pregnant or who have dependant children.

back.gif (287 bytes) back.gif (221 bytes)


Page 4


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