Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen told senators Tuesday the end of federal abortion protections would have damaging economic consequences for women and their participation in the workforce.
Yellen appeared before the Senate Banking Committee to testify on the Financial Stability Oversight Council’s annual report on systemic risks to the financial sector. In response to a question from Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., she spoke about the potential economic impact if the Supreme Court strikes down Roe v. Wade. A draft opinion published by Politico last week indicated the court has the votes to do so.
“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. “Denying women access to abortion increases their odds of living in poverty or need for public assistance.”
Her comments came as the Senate prepares to hold a procedural vote on a bill introduced by Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., that would codify abortion rights on the federal level. The bill is unlikely to get the minimum 60 votes needed to advance.
“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,” Yellen said. “Research also shows that it had a favorable impact on the wellbeing and earnings of children.”
Ending federal protections for abortion would hurt young, low-income and Black women in particular, she said.
“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 it means that children will grow up in poverty and do worse themselves,” she said. “This is not harsh. This is the truth.”
Sen. Tim Scott, R-S.C., called Yellen’s comments “callous.”
“As a guy raised by a Black woman in abject poverty, I'm thankful to be here as a United States senator,” Scott said. “I think because my circumstance is so like so many others — millions and millions of kids being raised in poverty by single-parent households who happened to be Black — telling Black teenage moms that there's only one alternative for them is a depressing and challenging message.”
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., said it was unfair for Scott to assume his experience was universal.
“You can't know everyone's circumstances,” she said.
Senate Banking Chairman Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, agreed with Cortez Masto.
“If Roe is overturned, every American woman's going to have her freedom to make her own personal health decisions taken away and handed over to politicians,” Brown said. “It shouldn't be handed over to me. It shouldn't be handed over to Secretary Yellen. It shouldn't be handed over to Mitch McConnell.”