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Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said Tuesday that repealing Roe v. Wade would damage the U.S. economy, a week after a leaked draft opinion showed a majority of the Supreme Court voted to overturn the 49-year-old decision.

“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 during a Senate Banking Committee hearing after Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) asked her about the economic implications of overturning Roe V. Wade.

“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 … [and] increase their earning potential,” she added.

The comments come after Politico published a draft opinion on May 3 showing that a conservative majority of the Supreme Court has voted to overturn the 1973 opinion guaranteeing the right to an abortion before viability of the fetus. Without Roe v. Wade, states would be free to outlaw abortion — and many are primed to do just that if the Supreme Court’s final decision reflects the leaked draft.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen testifies during the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee hearing titled “The Financial Stability Oversight Council Annual Report to Congress,” in Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C.,U.S., May 10, 2022. Tom Williams/Pool via REUTERS

Speaking to Senators on Tuesday, Yellen said research shows that denying women access to abortion increases their odds of living in poverty or relying on public assistance. Moreover, she said, research shows that Roe v. Wade has had a favorable impact on the wellbeing and earnings of children.

Indeed, many experts contend that abortion played a key role in increasing women’s labor force participation in the 1970s, as The New York Times’ Emma Goldberg reported this week. That participation rate was 57.4% for women 16 and older in 2019, up from just 43% in 1970.

However, Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC) suggested it was “harsh” to link the issues of labor force participation and abortion before he shared his own experience of being raised by a Black woman in abject poverty.

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 point 4% added to our labor force participation as a result of the issue of abortion, just to me, seems harsh,” Scott said.

Yellen defended her comments by pointing out that Roe v. Wade benefited women and not just the economy. “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.”

Yellen also weighed in on regulating crypto and the risks it presents to the financial system, reiterating that the Financial Stability Oversight Council, which she chairs, views cryptocurrency as a risk to the stability of the U.S. payment system.

Jennifer Schonberger covers cryptocurrencies and policy for Yahoo Finance. Follow her at @Jenniferisms.

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