Pro-abortion members of the Senate Banking Committee had questions for Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen on Monday during a meeting held to gain answers as to the state of the economy. But for Democrat senators, the hearing was an opportunity to signal their support for abortion.
Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey asked Yellen asked about the potential economic impact of a reversal of Roe v. Wade. Yellen upheld the economic value of abortion, saying that it makes women more available to the labor force, as did . But Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina could not contain his disgust at the idea that killing the unborn is a boon for the economy.
Menendez of New Jersey asked Yellen about the loss of economic prosperity that could result from a removal or lessening of abortion access for American women.
"The ability to have full control over one's reproductive health has real world economic consequences," Menendez began. "According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, current state level abortion restrictions already costs the United States about $105 billion annually due to reduced earning levels, increased job turnover and time off for woman."
Those costs Menendez referenced include time off to give birth, to care for young, and to recover from pregnancy and child birth. The loss of women's earning power, as mothers, comes from the necessary reprioritization of motherhood and childrearing over working outside the home. By Menendez argument, even time off for a wanted pregnancy is an unwelcome blow to American economic prosperity.
"So Secretary Yellen," Menendez asked, "if the draft of the court's majority holding and Roe vs. Wade is the actual decision what impact will the loss of abortion access mean economically for women?"
Yellen responded as she was expected to, saying "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."
For Yellen, abortion is necessary because it makes women more available to contribute their labor to the economy, rather than to the project of caring for and raising children.
"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 increase their earning potential. It allowed women to plan and balance their families and careers," Yellen said.
She also found a way to frame abortion as better for children, despite it being the elimination of children who would otherwise gone on to actually live.
"And research also shows," Yellen said, "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."
For both Yellen and Menendez, minority women are those who are likely to suffer the most from not being able to abdicate from motherhood. "Eliminating a right that has existed for half a century, particularly for low income and minority women who abolish already showed that much of the burden from the COVID pandemic would be a disaster," Menendez said.
South Carolina's Senator Scott was horrified at this framing, and addressed that when he had the opportunity to question Yellen.
"Some of your comments in response to Bob's question I found troubling and just for clarity's sake: Did you say that ending the life of a child is good for the labor force participation rate?" Scott asked.
Yellen had said that "access to reproductive health care, including abortion, helped lead to increased labor force participation."
Scott read back the quote, saying that he hears these words "as a guy who was raised by a single mom who worked long hours to keep us out of poverty," which gives him a unique perspective.
"I think people can disagree on the issue," Scott said, "of being pro-life or or pro-abortion. But in the end, I think framing it in the context of labor force participation 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 percent added to our labor force participation as a result of the issue of abortion just to me, seems harsh."
Yellen doubled down, saying that her message wasn't harsh, but were simply realistic. "I certainly don't mean to say what I think the effects are in a manner that's harsh," she said.
"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 his 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," Yellen said.
According to Guttmacher, the majority of American abortions are undergone by women in their early 20s, not their teens. Scott also pointed out later in the hearing that "the rate of abortion for teenage moms is at the lowest point" that the US has seen in decades. He also said that it's wrong to tell black women that they have only one option: to not become mothers, to abort their children.
"So there there is a spillover into labor force participation but and it means the children will grow up in poverty and do to worse themselves," Yellen said, seeming to proclaim, again, that abortion is better for children. "This is not harsh, this is the truth," she said.
"I'll just simply say that as a guy raised by a black woman in abject poverty, I'm thankful to be here as a United States Senator," Scott said.
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