Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen addressed the economic consequences of overturning Roe v. Wade on Tuesday during testimony before the Senate Banking Committee.
“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 lawmakers during an annual review of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, which she chairs.
Yellen was responding to a question from Democratic Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey about the leaked draft opinion that revealed the US Supreme Court could overturn the landmark case. The Treasury secretary added that research shows Roe v. Wade had a favorable impact on the well-being and even the earnings of children.
Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina criticized Yellen’s economic framing as “harsh.”
“Did you say that ending the life of a child is good for the labor force participation rate?” Scott said after Yellen’s warning that rolling back abortion rights would be damaging to the economy. “Framing it in the context of labor force participation just feels callous to me,” Scott added. “To me, it seems harsh.”
Yellen said that she did not mean to describe the economic effects of overturning Roe v. Wade in a manner that was harsh.
“Roe v. Wade and access to reproductive health care, including abortion, helped lead to increased labor force participation,” Yellen said. “It enabled many women to finish school. That increased their earning potential. It allowed women to plan and balance their families and careers.”
Research makes clear that “denying women access to abortion increased their odds of living in poverty or need for public assistance,” Yellen said, in likely reference to a September 2021 amicus brief filed by more than 150 prominent economists.
“What we are 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,” Yellen added. “One aspect of a satisfying life is being able to feel you have the financial resources to raise a child.”
Yellen noted that many abortions are performed on teenagers, often Black women from low-income backgrounds who may not be in a position to care for children following unexpected pregnancies. She added there is a spillover effect to the economy because unexpected pregnancies may deprive women of their ability to continue their education and affect their place in the workforce.
“It means the child will grow up in poverty and do worse themselves,” Yellen said.
Scott responded by pointing to his own background.”As a guy raised by a Black woman in abject poverty,” he said, “I’m thankful to be here as a United States senator.”
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