Loss of access to legal abortion “would set women back decades,” says Yellen.

WASHINGTON – Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said on Tuesday that losing access to legal abortions would damage the US economy and deal a severe blow to women’s financial well-being.

“I believe that eliminating women’s rights to make decisions about when and whether to have children would have very damaging effects on the economy and set women back decades,” Ms. Yellen said during a hearing before the Senate Banking Committee.

A leaked draft decision indicated that the Supreme Court was prepared to overturn Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark case that established a constitutional right to abortion, raising concerns that access to abortion will be curtailed across much of the country.

Ms. Yellen, who is the first female secretary to the Treasury, said such a move would represent a serious economic setback for women. She said the legalization of abortion helped lead to increased participation in the workforce among women, allowing more people to finish school and increase their earning potential, and pointed to economic research that supports this argument.

“It makes it clear that denying women access to abortion increases their chances of living in poverty or in need of public assistance,” Ms Yellen said of the research.

Senator Tim Scott, a Republican from South Carolina, called Ms. Yellen’s argument “hard” and “piercing,” suggesting that it was inappropriate to frame the abortion debate in economic terms. He said he was grateful that he was raised by a single mother who kept her family out of poverty.

In a tense exchange, Ms. Yellen dismissed and argued that it is important for women to be able to have children when they have the financial resources to care for them.

“This is not hard, this is the truth,” Ms. Yellen said.