‘Very damaging effects on the economy': Is Sec. Yellen right about overturning Roe v. Wade?


Fact Box

  • In 1973, the Supreme Court legalized abortion with the Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions. There have been roughly 62 million abortions in the US since then. 
  • On May 2, 2022, POLITICO released an initial 98-page draft written by Justice Samuel Alito noting the majority of the Supreme Court had voted down the Roe v. Wade decision with a statement, “Roe was egregiously wrong from the start. Its reasoning was exceptionally weak, and the decision has had damaging consequences” However, the court ruling will not be finalized until the next two months. 
  • US Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen stated on May 10, 2022, “I believe that eliminating the rights 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.” 
  • Planned Parenthood notes that abortions cost “up to $750 in the first trimester, and up to $1,500 later in pregnancy” depending the state or health center and insurance. 
  • MarketWatch reported on various polls regarding Roe v. Wade. A January 2022 CNN poll found that 69% of Americans want to leave the ruling as is, while 30% want it overturned.

Siam (Yes)

Senator Yellen is right that overturning Roe vs. Wade may have very serious adverse effects on the economy. Eliminating women's rights to make decisions regarding their reproductivity (whether they will have children or not) will set the women back. Roe v. Wade has allowed women access to reproductive healthcare services for decades, including abortion. And because women felt they could not afford, keep, or effectively look after a baby, terminating the pregnancy has allowed them to remain in and even rejoin the workforce.

There is ample evidence that Roe v. Wade permitted many of these women to finish school or college and obtain an education or a skilled trade. This also enhanced their earning potential in the community. More importantly, it permitted women to balance their family life/career, enabling them to plan for a family. Likewise, research and studies show that denying women access to abortions increases the probability of these women needing a range of public assistance services and that they and their children will live in poverty. According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, the current restrictions on abortions at the state level cost the Federal government close to $105 billion annually.

Many people forget that the majority of American abortions occur predominantly among low-income, Hispanic, and African American young girls and women who are not in a position to look after a child. Not granting these women access to abortion prevents them from continuing with education and participating in the workforce, of course setting them back and damaging the economy in the process. And the resulting spillover will mean that the children will grow up in poverty and fare worse than others.

Curtice (No)

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen's recent assertion that overturning Roe would significantly damage the US economy fails to meet ethical and factual scrutiny. Whether overturning Roe will have a positive, negative, or neutral impact on the economy is immaterial to the debate and discussion over what abortion is and does

Yellen previously commented on restricting immigration, stating it too would have a negative economic impact. Her pattern seems to be suggesting that any social policy Democrats don’t support would have a negative impact on the economy. Currently, there is a worker shortage with employers trying to accommodate new workforce demands. And, thanks to technology and the pandemic, many employers are willing to allow for work-from-home alternatives, making it easier for mothers to work. Same with higher education. One can earn a college degree without leaving the house.

But Yellen commenting on this issue is seemingly another way our elected officials have been trying to influence SCOTUS before handing down its decision. SCOTUS’ only role is to examine Roe by its constitutionality while remaining independent of sway from outside forces. For instance, if the large swaths of Americans who demanded their 'right' to own slaves were obeyed, SCOTUS never would have struck down bad existing precedent, like Dread Scott (1857), which decided Black people were not Americans deserving of rights. Some SCOTUS decisions horrifically twisted the Constitution, resulting in denying a whole class of people their Constitutional rights. Bad precedent has been overturned, and Roe should be overturned now.  

But if Roe is overturned, democracy still wins, as abortion laws revert back to the states, where citizens elect representatives to enact laws favorable to the position the majority of those citizens hold regarding abortion. And to Yellen’s concern, fewer abortions means more taxpaying citizens will be added to the population, leading to an increased need for goods and services and ultimately affecting and improving the economy's overall growth.

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