News Release

How Does President Clinton Treat (Poor) Women?


Whatever the truth about President Clinton’s private life may be, many supporters assert that his public policies have been beneficial to American women. But some scholars are pointing to evidence that Clinton administration policies have actually been very harmful to women with scant economic resources.

“In one broad stroke, his major legislative initiative — welfare reform — rolled back the rights of all mothers who find themselves in need of economic assistance,” says Gwendolyn Mink, a professor of politics at the University of California at Santa Cruz. The welfare law, signed by Clinton two years ago in late August, includes tough provisions for establishing paternity and requiring child support. Mink notes that “these requirements compel mothers to answer the government’s questions about their sex lives.”

Mink adds: “So poor unmarried mothers must tell judges or welfare officials the names of the men they have slept with. In judicial proceedings they also have had to tell how often, where and when. If they refuse, they can be denied food stamps or Medicaid or welfare. But where are the defenders of their privacy? Don’t their rights count?”

Mimi Abramovitz, professor of social policy at the School of Social Work at Hunter College, comments: “The President’s wide-ranging social policies are playing real havoc with the lives of poor women. The work requirements of his heralded welfare reform bill have thrown large numbers of women to the wolves — including the governors who want to save tax dollars by spending less on the poor and employers who want to increase their profits by employing cheap labor… Women also represent the overwhelming majority of those who receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicaid, food stamps and public housing benefits. All of these programs have been axed to the bone.”

Ann Withorn, professor of social policy at the University of Massachusetts in Boston, says that Clinton signed a welfare law “full of seductive lies and false promises.” Among those deceptions are the claims that “living wage jobs exist for all single moms” and that “the folks who have been disappeared off the welfare rolls recently are all better off, and have not gone back to dangerous men or other far worse situations for them and their kids.”

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Abramovitz’s books include Regulating the Lives of Women and Under Attack, Fighting Back: Women and Welfare in the United States.

Mink is author of the 1998 book Welfare’s End.

Withorn is co-editor of For Crying Out Loud: Women’s Poverty in the U.S.

For more information, contact Sam Husseini at the Institute for Public Accuracy, (202) 347-0020.