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Despite the attempts of lawmakers to address the multiple needs of the underserved, people continue to suffer the consequences of policies’ hidden intentions. Such is the case with the Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act (Personal Responsibility Act) of 1996. Most of us know this act not by it’s legal name, but rather in layman’s terms: welfare. The 1996 act ended women’s and children’s federal entitlement to welfare. Americans do not like giving out free money. They especially do not like giving this money out to “lazy women.” This is apparent in the PRWORA, or welfare, legislation as it aims to punish these women who have defied normal and acceptable gender roles by not marrying, but who have instead chosen to head their own households.
The welfare act blatantly places women in a secondary position, not encouraging or empowering them to step forward and independently provide for their children. Cash rewards provided to female welfare aid recipients who are willing to get married or use contraceptives, make it appear as though lawmakers wanted to pass on the responsibility of sustaining these families to someone else and take it away from women entirely. The act devalues families that do not adhere to the classic definition of a nuclear family. In addition, by placing more value on marriage in and of itself, rather than by prompting healthy and functional families, the government appears to be supportive of all heteronormative relationships. Even those which are dysfunctional, unhappy, or abusive. Marriage promotion policies, like welfare, appear to encourage female individuals to stay in unhealthy and abusive relationships for the economic value, and disregard the impact that belonging to happy and healthy families has on the youth of America.
By Elizabeth Chalme, Vanessa Gonzales, Angela Ruiz, Karina Quintero, and Miriam Vitela