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
'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.'
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
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).
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
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
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
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.