Treasury secretary and former Fed chair Janet Yellen makes financial argument for terminating pregnancies
President Joe Biden's Treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, has made an economic case for ensuring that all Americans have access to abortion services, arguing that half a century of allowing women to terminate their pregnancies has increased participation in the labor force.
"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 testified on Tuesday in a Senate hearing. She added that Roe v. Wade, the 1973 US Supreme Court ruling that abortion is a constitutional right, has allowed more women to work outside the home and finish schooling to boost their earnings potential.
The abortion issue was brought to the forefront last week, when a draft ruling by the US Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade was leaked to a media outlet. The leak spurred protests - including demonstrations outside the homes of Supreme Court justices - and prompted attacks on Christian groups, such as the firebombing of a Wisconsin organization that lobbies against abortion.
US Senator Tim Scott (R-South Carolina) took issue with Yellen's testimony. He suggested that noting how abortion kept more women in the labor force was "callous" and "harsh." Apparently astonished by her framing of the issue, he asked Yellen, "Just for clarity's sake, did you say that ending the life of a child is good for the labor-force participation rate?"
Yellen replied, "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."
The Treasury secretary, who is white, also noted a racial angle to her analysis, saying, "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." She added that the unplanned children of such women "will grow up in poverty and do worse themselves. This is not harsh. This is the truth."
Scott, who is black, replied, "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." He also called Yellen's comments "unusually piercing."
Fox Business Network host Charles Payne, who is also black, suggested that following Yellen's abortion theory to its logical conclusion would mean "the near extinction of black people in America." He added, "But also according to her logic, all those abortions would be great for the economy and those allowed to be born into it."
Yellen was formerly chairwoman of the Federal Reserve Bank before resigning in 2017, after then-President Donald Trump declined to appoint her to a second term heading the powerful institution.
US efforts to push women into the workforce go back nearly a century. A 1940s propaganda campaign, featuring a character named "Rosie the Riveter," encouraged women to take factory jobs to help support America's war effort.
Chief Justice John Roberts has confirmed the authenticity of the draft Supreme Court ruling. The ruling is scheduled to be officially made in late June or early July. It would essentially leave the abortion issue for elected officials in each state to decide.