Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) criticized Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen for testifying that abortion benefits the economy.
Yellen, testifying before the Senate Banking Committee on Tuesday, provoked the reaction from Scott by commenting on the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision that is now expected to be struck down by the Supreme Court, saying the ruling legalizing abortion nationwide boosted women's workforce participation.
“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.
Scott, who was raised by a single mother, said that while people can disagree on the issue of abortion rights, framing it in the perspective of labor force participation and economic considerations “just feels callused” and “harsh.”
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Yellen said she didn't mean to be harsh when discussing the effects of abortion on the economic system but said she was discussing the ability of women to regulate their “reproductive situation” in ways that enable them to plan their lives and seek fulfillment.
“And one aspect of a 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,” she said.
Yellen noted that many abortions are procured by teenagers, low-income women, and minorities. She argued that those women might not be in a position to care for a child and that having one would limit their educational and career opportunities.
“This is not harsh. This is the truth,” the treasury secretary told lawmakers.
Scott responded that “as a guy raised by a black woman in abject poverty,” he is thankful to be sitting at the hearing as a senator. He characterized Yellen’s remarks about abortion as “unusually piercing.”
The comments that brought about the exchange between Yellen and Scott came after Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) asked the treasury secretary about the economic effects of a decision reversing Roe.
She said eliminating abortion rights would have “very damaging effects on the economy and would set women back decades.”
Yellen said Roe v. Wade helped lead to increased labor-force participation, allowed many women to complete their education, and increased their earning potential.
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“Research also shows that it had a favorable impact on the well-being and earnings of children,” she said. “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.”
The questions come after the leak of a draft Supreme Court decision that struck down the 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling. The leak led to protests and an investigation into the source of the leak at the country’s notoriously tight-lipped high court.