Treasury Secretary Yellen Says Overturning Roe v Wade Would Have 'Damaging Effects' on US Economy

In testimony before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, May 10, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen warned that overturning Roe v Wade would have a negative impact on the American economy and on women.

Yellen was before the Senate to present the Financial Stability Oversight Council’s (FSOC) annual report to Congress.

In footage streamed live by CSPAN, Yellen says, “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 said the landmark Roe v Wade decision “helped lead to increased labor force participation, enabled many women to finish school that increased their earning potential,” and “allowed women to plan and balance their families and careers.”

In response, Republican Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina said, “I think people can disagree on the issue of being pro-life or pro-abortion, but in the end I think framing it in the context of labor force participation is, it just feels callous to me.”

Yellen said she did not intend to be “harsh” with her comments, adding that “one aspect of a satisfying life is being able to feel that you have the financial resources to raise a child.” The committee also addressed sanctions against Russia, regulating cryptocurrency, inflation, and affordable housing, CSPAN said. Credit: CSPAN via Storyful

Video transcript

BOB MENENDEZ: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, Madam Secretary, welcome. I want to talk to you about some things that also can affect our economy, the ability to have full control over one's reproductive health has real-world economic consequences. According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, current state-level abortion restrictions already cost the United States about $105 billion annually due to reduced earning levels, increased job turnover, and time off for women. So Secretary Yellen, if the draft of the court's majority holding in Roe vs. Wade is the actual decision, what impact will the loss of abortion access mean economically for women?

JANET YELLEN: Well, 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. Roe v. Wade and access to reproductive health care, including abortion, helped lead to increased labor force participation. 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, and it makes clear that denying women access to abortion increase their odds of living in poverty or need for public assistance.

BOB MENENDEZ: For half of the population of America eliminating a right that has existed for half a century, particularly for low-income and minority women who have already shouldered much of the burden from the COVID pandemic would be a disaster.

TIM SCOTT: Some of your comments in response to Bob's question I found troubling. And just from a clarity's sake, did you say that ending the life of a child is good for the labor force participation rate? Giving someone the access, let me just quote what you said, that ultimately increasing access to abortion and reproductive health care allows for our labor force participation rate to continue to increase. That denying women access to abortion increases their odds of living in poverty or need for public assistance.

To the guy who was raised by a single mom who worked long hours to keep us out of poverty, I think people can disagree on the issue of being pro-life or pro-abortion but in the end, I think framing it in the context of labor force participation is-- just 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. And I'm just surprised that we find ways to weave into every facet of our lives 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.

JANET YELLEN: Well, I certainly don't mean to say what I think the effects are in a manner that's harsh. 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. And one aspect of this 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.

In many cases, abortions are of teenage women, particularly low income and often Black, who aren't in a position to be able to care for children, have unexpected pregnancies and it deprives them of the ability often to continue their education to later participate in the workforce. So there is a spillover into labor force participation but-- and it means that children will grow up in poverty and do worse themselves.

TIM SCOTT: Thank you. Let me just claim my time off-topic.

JANET YELLEN: This is not harsh, this is the truth.

TIM SCOTT: I'll just simply say that as a guy raised by a Black woman in abject poverty, I am thankful to be here as a United States Senator first. Second thing I'd say is that we can at the same time have a real conversation about increasing child tax credits that are refundable, we can at the same time have a conversation about the opportunity to have a more robust system around the issue of child care, of early childhood education. We could have a conversation about financial literacy, there's a lot of ways for us to address the issue about the child that's here. So that just to me was an unusually piercing comment that you made.

I will say on my prepared question that--

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