Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Tuesday warned of a future without access to legal abortions nationwide, saying that it will not only have a harmful effect on women nationwide, but argued it would also have a devastating impact on the United States economy.
“I believe that eliminating the right of women to make decisions about when and whether to have children would have very damaging effects on the economy and would set women back decades,” Yellen told the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee on Tuesday.
Yellen is the latest member of the Biden administration to issue a blistering condemnation of the leaked draft opinion from the Supreme Court, first published by POLITICO, which showed that a majority of the justices have voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 decision which guaranteed the constitutional right to an abortion.
“Roe v. Wade and access to reproductive health care, including abortion, helped lead to increased labor force participation,” Yellen said in response to a question from New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez “It enabled many women to finish school, that increased their earning potential. It allowed women to plan and balance their families and careers. And research also shows that it had a favorable impact on the well being and earnings of children.”
“There are many research studies that have been done over the years looking at the economic impacts of access, or lack thereof, to abortion,” she continued. “And it makes clear that denying women access to abortion increase[s] their odds of living in poverty or need for public assistance.”
Republican Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina took umbrage with Yellen’s answer, saying that her “framing” of the issue of abortion in terms of labor force participation and the economy “feels callous to me.”
“I think finding a way to have a debate around abortion in a meeting for the economic stability of our country is harsh,” he said. “I'm just surprised that we find ways to weave into every facet of our lives — it has such an important and painful reality for so many people — to make it sound like it's just another 0.4% added to our labor force participation as a result of the issue of abortion, just to me, seems harsh.”
“I certainly don't mean to say what I think the effects are in a manner that's harsh,” Yellen replied.
“What we're talking about is whether or not women will have the ability to regulate their reproductive situation in ways that will enable them to plan lives that are fulfilling and satisfying for them,” she said. “And one aspect of a satisfying life is being able to feel that you have the financial resources to raise a child, that the children you bring into the world are wanted, and that you have the ability to take care of them.”
Yellen said that “in many cases,” women who have abortions are typically younger and of lower income “who aren't in a position to be able to care for children,” and “unwanted pregnancies” can deny them the opportunity “to continue their education to later participate in the workforce."
“So there is a spillover into labor force participation, but … it means the children will grow up in poverty and do do worse themselves,” she pushed back. “This is not harsh. This is the truth.”
Scott replied by suggesting they could have a discussion about issues including tax credits for families, child care, early education and financial literacy.
“I’ll just say that as a guy raised by a Black woman in abject poverty, I am thankful to be here as a United States Senator,” he said.