Within days of overturning Roe v. Wade and essentially fulfilling the crown jewel of their political agenda for the last 50 years, Republicans have still found a way to blame everything—and I mean everything—on abortion. After years of gutting the social safety net, Republicans on the House Ways and Means Committee have somehow managed to attribute this country’s utterly depleted social security and Medicare systems to... abortion.
At a Thursday committee meeting, Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) claimed we have abortion rights to thank for the reality that none of us will ever be able to retire, claiming Roe took away the “supply” (!!!) of workers who could collectively fund social security. His full, absolutely brain-wormed remarks on the matter, which I am now dumber for having watched:
“If you think about 70 million people being aborted over the last 49 years, assuming half and half men and women… 70 million not in the workforce, assuming they have a child, two children, we’ve got somewhere between 100, 140 million people that have not worked, that are not with us because of the Roe v. Wade issue. And so, we’ve taken away the very workforce that was needed to supply both social security and Medicare.”
Lest you were prepared to brush off this utterly bonkers commentary (essentially blaming pregnant people for stopping their embryos and fetuses from clocking in to their 9-5 desk jobs) as the unhinged ravings of one lone, “pro-life” lunatic, remarkably enough, House Republicans’ wide stance on the matter is arguably more insane. Per their website, Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee claim “abortion shrinks the labor force,” arguing, “If all of these aborted babies had been otherwise carried to term and survived until today, they would add nearly 20 percent to the current U.S. population, and nearly 45 million would be of working age (18 to 64).”
Republicans also claim that in 2019 alone, by causing “the loss of nearly 630,000 unborn lives,” abortion rights had “cost the U.S. roughly $6.9 trillion, or 32 percent of GDP.” (The “lives” in question—and I cannot emphasize this enough— are literal fertilized eggs and fetuses.) The party that has spent the last several decades gutting the social safety net then claims outright that this abortion-shrunken workforce is entirely to blame for weakened social security and Medicare programs in the US. Child labor apparently isn’t enough—it sure sounds like Hern and his ilk want your fetuses working.
In seriousness, where does one even begin to unpack everything fucked up about this? Firstly, the math doesn’t even make sense, because many people wouldn’t have the child(ren) they now have had they not been able to have an abortion at some point in their lives. Further, abortion has allowed many women and pregnant people to remain in the workforce—so you’d have to subtract all those laborers, too.
At the end of the day, as nonsensical as their reasoning is, anti-abortion lawmakers are simply saying the quiet part out loud: Reproductive oppression is a central tenet of capitalism, because forced pregnancy and birth guarantee new, future generations of workers to exploit—an endless “supply,” if you will, created through unthinkable state violence.
Even prior to the end of Roe, laws like the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits federal funding from paying for most abortions, deliberately targeted disproportionately poor people of color to keep them poor. As years of research have shown, being denied abortion care often pushes the pregnant person and their children even deeper into poverty, left to fend for themselves without a social safety net. Forced pregnancy and birth ensure there will always be families in such dire economic situations that they’ll be forced to rely on low-wage jobs, all while Hern can maintain his $61 million net worth and attack abortion patients as the reason for everything wrong with this country.
I’ll let Republicans’ own words speak for themselves: “Abortion shrinks the labor force”—this isn’t about babies, or families, or even God; it’s about money. It’s about blaming anything, even fetuses that have never touched grass, on the shameful state of social programs they’ve spent decades attacking, while lining their own pockets. Anti-abortion politicians don’t see the “unborn” as precious children; they see them as cogs in a machine, as literal dollar signs.
Reproductive justice—the framework created by Black women that asserts each of us should be able to parent or not parent in safe, healthy communities—is incompatible with capitalism. It always has been. The former is about bodily autonomy and thriving families; the latter, as Hern has so shamelessly outlined, is about creating generations of exploitable labor.