Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the quiet part out loud earlier today:
“I believe that eliminating the right 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,” she said in response to a question at a Senate Banking Committee hearing.
The suggestion that American women must sacrifice their children for the good of the GDP is certainly revolting. But the thing is, there’s a logic to Yellen’s point. Potential family responsibilities will necessarily distract from wholesale devotion to the corporation. Corporations lose out on valuable employees when women choose to leave the workforce or prioritize family over career.
It seems many corporations understand that as well. In a prospective post-Roe world, a growing number of major companies have announced that they will pay their employees’ travel costs to procure an abortion across state lines. It seems that corporate America has made the calculation that enabling female employees to abort their children costs less than, say, providing robust pro-family benefits. The list of corporations adding these new abortion “benefits” now includes heavy hitters like Amazon, Lyft, Salesforce, and would-be-savior-of-conservative-Twitter Elon Musk’s Tesla. (That Musk’s company is on the list is sign enough for conservatives to be wary of whether he will look out for our interests on Twitter.)
These pro-business, pro-abortion moves lay bare the folly of the compact social conservatives made with corporate America. The histrionics from the left over Justice Alito’s leaked draft opinion show that abortion is about far more than ending a pregnancy. Overturning Roe strikes at the core of the postwar socioeconomic order.
My colleague Micah Meadowcroft made a similar point on the latest episode of TAC Right Now. Micah argued that the fight over abortion isn’t just about the nature of human life and the wrongness of taking innocent life (although, it certainly is that). More broadly, we’re also talking about what human beings are for. The abortion regime is built on the edifice of the sexual revolution, one that renders humans as mere instruments of sexual gratification without consequences. Reconsidering Roe necessarily means reconsidering the prevailing sexual mores that have given us radical feminism, same-sex marriage, no-fault divorce, and rampant pornography. But it also means reconsidering an economic order governed by the same implicit license and self-indulgence.
TAC contributing editor Matthew Walther expands on similar themes, which he first explored in TAC, in a New York Times guest essay today. The title divulges the argument: “Overturning Roe Will Disrupt a Lot More Than Abortion. I Can Live With That.” Walther’s point is that, as he puts it in the conclusion, “What is right is very rarely what is convenient.” We opponents of abortion need to be clear-eyed about the implications of overturning Roe—and ready to construct alternatives.
So in this recognition comes opportunity. The post-Roe world for which the pro-life movement has diligently worked and prayed for 50 years is within reach. But Roe’s effects won’t be undone with one Supreme Court ruling. As Janet Yellen so revoltingly laid bare Tuesday, abortion has been the prerequisite for the economic order cheered by both right and left. Now is not the time for conservatives to seek incremental gains and punch to the right. Now is the time to reimagine pro-life politics and construct a sociopolitical order that incentivizes family over corporate profit. Either we believe abortion takes an innocent life, and order our politics accordingly, or we don’t.