Yellen says outlawing abortion would hurt U.S. economy, 'set women back decades'

Treasury secretary says access to abortion has allowed for higher female labor force participation

Updated: May 11, 2022 - 1:59pm

Following the recent leak of a Supreme Court draft opinion indicating justices will soon overturn Roe v. Wade, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen says banning the procedure would be "very damaging" to the U.S. economy because it would inhibit women from being able to balance their careers and their families.

"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 said Tuesday at a Senate Banking Committee hearing.

The 1973 landmark Roe v. Wade ruling guaranteed women across the country the constitutionally protected right to an abortion.

Yellen said that the original ruling allowed women to finish academic degrees, thereby increasing their earning potential, which led to higher workforce participation. 

"Research also shows that it had a favorable impact on the well-being and earnings of children," she also argued. "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 increases their odds of living in poverty or need for public assistance."

Republican Sen. Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican, told Yellen it felt "callous" to position the issue of abortion around labor-force participation. 

"This is not harsh," the Treasury secretary responded. "This is the truth."

She also said outlawing abortion means "children will grow up in poverty and do worse themselves."

Scott replied: "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." 

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