Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) is officially running for president and announced his support for a national abortion ban on Thursday. While endorsing the horrific idea, though, he delivered an utterly bizarre speech, concluding that abortion access is bad for the labor force. Here is the exact language he used, should you dare try to parse through it (emphasis mine):
I would simply say the fact of the matter is when you look at the issue of abortion, one of the challenges we have is we continue to go to the most restrictive conversations without broadening the scope and taking a look at the fact—I’m 100% pro-life, I never walk away from that. But the truth of the matter is that when you look at the issues on abortion, I start with the various important conversations I had at the banking hearing, when I was sitting in my office, listening to Janet Yellen, secretary of the treasury, talk about increasing the labor force participation rate for African American women, who are in poverty, by having abortions. I think we’re just having the wrong conversation.
Scott made his comments shortly after a Nebraska state lawmaker cited both the white supremacist “great replacement” theory to support a six-week ban and our nation’s supposedly declining labor force. Aborted fetuses, Republican state Sen. Steve Erdman contended on Wednesday, “could be working and filling some of those positions that we have vacancies.”
As anti-abortion politicians scramble for ways to talk about their lethally unpopular abortion bans, going as far as to claim over the weekend that women don’t care and have moved on from the issue, they continue to lean on the most dismal of talking points: economics. Last summer, House Republicans blamed depleted social security funds on abortion reducing the “supply” (vom) of future workers. Rep. Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) said at the time:
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.
It’s certainly a more convenient explanation than the truth, which is that Republican lawmakers have been hacking away at the social safety net for decades.
Hern further cited his caucus’ Ways and Means Committee website, which claims “abortion shrinks the labor force,” and that “if all of these aborted babies had been otherwise carried to term and survived…they would add nearly 20 percent to the current U.S. population, and nearly 45 million would be of working age.” In 2019, abortion rights caused “the loss of nearly 630,000 unborn lives,” and “cost the U.S. roughly $6.9 trillion, or 32 percent of GDP.” These “lives,” to be clear, are fetuses and embryos, whom Republicans humanize solely to deny rights to pregnant people or make some bullshit point about capitalism.
Much could be said about all of the dubious math that’s driving this new anti-abortion talking point, but Yellen’s comments were absolutely correct: Our labor force benefits when people who can get pregnant and their partners can get the abortion and contraceptive care they need to plan their families, lives, and, certainly, their careers. Many people are able to have children specifically because they were able to get abortion care when they weren’t yet ready to have kids. Longitudinal research has shown how being denied an abortion can push someone—and their children—deeper into poverty for years.
As more and more Republicans lean into the imagined economic boon of their abortion bans, they’re really saying the quiet part out loud: Their anti-abortion stance has little to do with caring for babies and families, but rather, controlling workers’ reproduction and extracting as much of their labor as possible. As I wrote last summer, reproductive oppression is a central piece of capitalism. Forced pregnancy and birth necessarily keep workers poor, all while creating new, future generations of workers to exploit—an endless “supply.” Low-income people are deliberately targeted by criminalization of their pregnancy outcomes or varying abortion restrictions, like the Hyde Amendment, which has prohibited Medicaid coverage of most abortions since 1976.