Welfare Policy:
Sweden's social welfare system can be divided into universal benefits and pensions and the social insurance systems. The social security system in Sweden provides a universal pension for Old-Age, Disability, and Death. Sickness and Maternity benefits are provided under the social insurance system through cash allocations and medical benefits. Unemployment coverage is through a dual subsidized voluntary insurance and unemployment assistance system.  To receive unemployment benefits individuals are required to have been members of the union for a minimum of 12 months prior to unemployment.

To qualify for sickness and maternity benefits, one does not need to meet a residency requirement as in the case of the Old-Age, Disability and Survivors pensions.  Cash benefits for care of children can be awarded to either parent under the cash sickness benefit. In addition, each parent is eligible for cash maternity benefits provided that they were insured a minimum of 240 days prior to the pregnancy.

Patricia Evans (1991) notes that the provision of government assistance to single mothers does not prevent, but rather, encourages their employment by providing comprehensive assistance.  Evans observes:

Sweden's focus on full employ-ment and development of policies to facilitate working and parenting have played an important role in improving the economic position of Swedish single mothers.  These policies include a generous family allowance and subsidized child care... Single mothers are also guaranteed child support through a government administered scheme that collects from fathers, distributes to mothers, and substitutes or supplements these payments as needed (Baines, Evans, and Neysmith 1991).

Under the universal system, Sweden also provides family allowances for residents with one or more children under the age of 16, children up to the age of 20 if the child is still a student, and children up to age 23 if the child attends a school for the mentally disabled.  Coverage for these benefits comes entirely from the government in the form of monthly cash allocations that vary according to the number of children in the family.  The Swedish model of maternal welfare enables poor and working-class women a wide array of choice to either have an abortion or rear their child and work at the same time.


Abortion Policy:
Despite Sweden's historically negative view towards abortion, it has evolved, through the Swedish Abortion Act of 1975, as one of the most liberal nations (Eggert and Rolston, eds. 1994). Consequently, according to Katarina Lindahl (1994) women in Sweden are now permitted to have an abortion up to the 18th week of pregnancy.  Between the 12th and 18th weeks the law requires that a woman seeking an abortion meet with a counselor.  In cases where the woman and her gynecologist are in agreement (that no barriers exist to the abortion), though, the required meeting with the counselor can be waived. In instances when an abortion is sought after the 18th week, a woman is required to receive approval from the National Board of Health and Welfare.  To be granted permission, the fetus must not yet be viable (at present this is before the 22nd week), and the woman must show that having the child would create grievous medical, psychological, or social problems for her.

The cost of abortions for women in Sweden remains low through the National Health Service that subsidizes part of the cost.  Women also receive compensation for time lost from work as a result of the abortion from the National Health insurance.  In addition to the relaxation of Sweden's abortion law, accompanying efforts were made to prevent unwanted pregnancies through the opening of youth clinics.  These clinics provide free counseling on contraceptives and sexuality as well as sex education in school.   Furthermore, midwives also have the ability to prescribe and distribute information about contraceptives.  These supplemental efforts to prevent unwanted pregnancies have helped contribute to a stabilized abortion rate after the 1975 enactment.


Although Switzerland does not strictly enforce its conservative abortion policy, the illegality of abortion, coupled with the conservative maternal welfare policy, create a situation that is most constraining for women without economic resources.  Women with low socioeconomic status in Ireland are also faced with a narrow range of reproductive choices because of the stringent abortion policies of the government.  While in the United States abortion remains legal, poor and working-class women nevertheless face the problem of access because of the lack of federal funding for abortion and maternal welfare.   Interestingly, in the federal states of Switzerland and the United States, the extent to which abortion funding is available depends upon the canton in which one resides. In conservative areas, women in Switzerland are denied access entirely within their nation and denied funding and access to public facilities for abortions in the United States.  It is

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