Social assistance (non-contributory) functions as a way of ensuring individuals, who have inadequate or no employment, a minimum subsistence level.  To receive social assistance, it is necessary to first satisfy a means test. Social assistance is designed for individuals who do not qualify for social insurance payments.  Individuals qualifying for social assistance are paid a flat rate with additional allowances for dependents; in some cases, supplementary welfare allowance (SWA) functions as a residual subsistence benefit for clients without sufficient funds to meet their needs.

Abortion Policy:

The Republic of Ireland represents the restrictive end of the abortion continuum. In contrast to most of Western Europe, abortion remains a criminal act in virtually all cases.  In 1983, the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution was added through referendum and instituted as Article 40.3.3 to read:

[T]he state acknowledges the right to life of the unborn and, with due regard to the equal right to life of the mother, guarantees in its laws to respect, and as far as practicable, by its laws to defend and vindicate that right (Eggert and Rolston eds. 1994).

Following the public controversy over the state's attempt to prosecute a 14­year old girl attempting to abort a fetus conceived after being raped by her best friend's father in 1992, Ireland responded with the passage of a referendum permitting women to travel abroad without being prosecuted while keeping abortion illegal in their country.

This policy thereby enabled the government to sidestep the issue of revising their abortion law by providing women with the option of abortion tourism in neighboring England or other permissive countries in Europe.  Of the issues presented in the tripartite referendum held in December 1992, the Irish people approved the referenda supporting the right of Irish women to travel abroad and to make information about services, including abortion in member states of the European Community, freely available to individuals in Ireland.

Despite the ability to travel abroad for an abortion, women must first have the financial means to cover the costs associated with traveling and abortion services.  As Joyce Outshoorn observes, "[t]raveling for an abortion is both a financial and psychological burden for women and does form a real barrier in a number of cases (especially for young women and poorer women; Githens and McBride Stetson 1996). In their decision to avoid addressing the abortion issue while approving the option of abortion tourism, the public is ignoring


the needs of poor women facing unplanned or unwanted pregnancies.

The third issue on the referendum that legalized abortion in certain circumstances was rejected.  In 1995, a bill was passed formalizing the referendum with the change that it now criminalized the act of referral to abortion clinics.  The implications of this revision most significantly impact women without the resources to contact foreign clinics themselves.

Conservative/ Liberal: United States

A country with conservative welfare policy and liberal abortion policy creates a setting where abortion is the more feasible option.  One would assume intuitively that when a country's welfare policies for unwed mothers make motherhood unattractive and while abortions and funding are readily available, persons unable to afford the costs of child care will be more likely to seek abortions.  By the same token, lack of public abortion facilities or funds may lead more women to have children they may not want.  The United States demonstrates a country with conservative maternal welfare policy and liberal abortion policy.

Welfare Policy:

The liberal abortion policy in the United States has not been accompanied by welfare measures similar to those implemented in most of Western Europe, which allocate funds for abortion and child-rearing.  In the United States, welfare policy takes shape under the umbrellas of welfare and social security. The welfare system is designed primarily to provide aid to children, and does not offer support for able-bodied individuals capable of employment.  Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) allocates federal funds to states that in turn jointly fund programs for needy children and their families.  To receive federal funding, states must first allocate their own moneys for needy families before they receive 50 to 80 percent of the budget required to provide AFDC programs within the state.  In addition, the welfare system also provides Food Stamps and Job Opportunities Programs for individuals in need of assistance.

Recent changes have occurred in the welfare system as a result of the passage of the Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act of 1996.  As a consequence, AFDC is being replaced by a new program, Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF).  Unlike recipients of AFDC, individuals receiving TANF will no longer be automatically awarded Medicaid. Individuals with dependent children will also be required to work (defined as unsubsidized jobs, subsidized public or private sector jobs, schooling, job training, and communi

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