Treasury Secretary Shows Disturbing Lack of Empathy in Abortion Comments

(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen is taking fire for comments she made on abortion in front of the Senate Banking Committee Tuesday. Sounding like a Soviet apparatchik, she said, “Roe v. Wade and access to reproductive health care including abortion helped lead to increased (women’s) labor force participation,” adding, “research also shows that it had a favorable impact on the well-being and earnings of children.”



South Carolina Senator Tim Scott was aghast at the testimony and delivered a “knock out response,” as RedState’s Brandon Morse reported.

On Wednesday the Wall Street Journal’s Editorial Board piled on in an editorial:

Putting the difficult moral choice of abortion in such utilitarian terms won’t win over many converts. But even on those narrow terms, Ms. Yellen ignores some economic facts.

Utilitarian terms? A well-programmed robot would show more empathy. Not only that, but her economic arguments are flawed, as the Journal explains:

The link between abortion access and women’s labor force participation is more tenuous than she suggests. Women’s labor participation was rising for decades before Roe and continued to climb until the early 2000s amid cultural changes. Abortion rates have also fallen by half since 1980, and teen pregnancy rates have plunged by two-thirds since 1990 amid increased access to contraception. Far more than access to abortion influences the life and work choices of women.

They continue:

More fundamental, Ms. Yellen overlooks the lost productive contribution of children who were never born. People are assets, the source of inventions and new businesses. Human capital is crucial to economic growth and a dynamic society. China has abandoned its one-child policy, which sometimes included coerced abortions, because it foresees a declining population in the years ahead.


The Journal does a nice job of explaining why abortion is not necessarily some economic magic pill. Another thing to think about is what Yellen appears to be saying about the poor, namely that their lives aren’t worth living:

“In many cases, abortions are of teenage women, particularly low-income and often Black, who aren’t in a position to be able to care for children, have unexpected pregnancies, and it deprives them of the ability often to continue their education to later participate in the workforce,” Yellen said.”So there is a spillover into labor force participation, but it means the children will grow up in poverty and do worse themselves…”

“This is not harsh. This is the truth,” she added.

“The children will grow up in poverty and do worse themselves,” she says. Okay. But does the fact that they might be poor mean they shouldn’t even be born?

If you had the choice to live with the caveat that you would always be poor, you’d probably choose life. And while no one wishes poverty on anyone, the poor aren’t always miserable people, and in fact, can find happiness in life without a fancy car:

People at the lower end of the income scale take more pleasure in their relationships and enjoy caring for and connecting with others, according to a study published Monday in the journal Emotion. By contrast, the positive emotions experienced by people with higher incomes are mainly focused on themselves, the research suggests.


Money can’t buy me love, sang the Beatles. It can’t buy you happiness either.

Yellen talks about women in the labor force as if they’re little worker bees, and their happiness comes only from the pursuit of money and their participation in the workforce. More elistist, entitled condescension from our ruling class.

As the Journal editorial opines, ”Abortion is a fraught moral issue, which is why it ought to be settled democratically, rather than by judicial fiat. But its consequences can’t be measured by lifetime earnings or the labor participation rate.”

Well said.


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