The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion Tim Scott: Abortion is not the way to help single Black mothers

Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen testifies during a House committee hearing on Capitol Hill on May 12. (Saul Loeb/Pool/Reuters)
4 min

Tim Scott, a Republican, represents South Carolina in the U.S. Senate.

My mom raised my brother and me on her own, struggling to make ends meet. She worked 16 hours a day three days a week, and eight hours a day two days a week, just to keep food on the table and the lights on.

She was a nurse’s aide, changing bedpans and rolling patients. She did this work because she wanted to teach my brother and me a lesson that there is dignity in all work and dignity in all life.

I thought of my mother — of all Black mothers like her — during an appearance last week by Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen at a Senate Banking Committee hearing, when Yellen was asked how a ban on abortion might affect the American economy.

“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,” Yellen said.

She went on to say how abortion affects “particularly low-income and often Black” mothers and how a lack of access to abortion “deprives them of the ability often to continue their education to later participate in the workforce.”

To me, this was stunning. I thought I had misheard her. Was Yellen making the case for how abortion is good for America’s labor force? But when questioned, Yellen doubled down on what I believe is a callous, inhumane reason for ending innocent life.

In that moment, I felt compelled to speak up and speak out on behalf of people like my mom. There are voices today who would tell you that our lives were hopeless. That a life like the one we had as a family was not a life worth living, and that the United States would be better off if people like us didn’t exist at all.

We live in a world where words are too often disconnected from the lived experiences of many Americans. Yellen’s cold and robotic reference to the issue of life is just the latest example of that.

If abortion is our first and “best” answer to ensure that women and low-income families can thrive economically, the United States has reached one of its darkest times in our history. The claim is simply false and echoes the egregious arguments made in the early 20th century by Margaret Sanger in support of the eugenics movement.

But there is a better way. The American Dream is one of hope and opportunity. I know this, because I’ve lived it. In America, the son of a Black single mother can go from poverty to the U.S. Senate in one lifetime. If we want to talk about the economic stability of our country, let’s talk about what we can do to ensure single moms and their kids have access to that same American Dream.

When it comes to our economic challenges, we need to have a hard conversation about policies that actually work. In 2017, I was one of the architects of reforming the personal side of the tax code. Within those reforms, we nearly doubled the standard deduction for single parents from $9,300 to $18,000. Those changes cut single moms’ federal taxes by 70 percent. They led to the average American household keeping up to $4,000 more of their hard-earned money.

I have also worked in a bipartisan way on Opportunity Zones, where we have offered incentives to the private sector to invest in some of the most devastated Zip codes in America. Through this work, the private sector invested $29 billion during the program’s first full year. These are the kinds of investments that lead to increased wages, reduced unemployment and reduced poverty in those neighborhoods.

Now, I am working with my colleagues to enhance the Child Care and Development Block Grant program so that more parents will be able to work and care for the most important people in their lives: their kids. These are the types of programs that lift up all Americans, including and especially women and women of color, and that give hope that a better future is within their grasp.

If we want to have hard conversations about what will improve outcomes for our nation’s poorest communities, I welcome those conversations because I believe that America is the solution — not the problem. When it comes to our economic challenges, abortion is not the answer. And I will debate anyone, anywhere, at any time about solutions that actually work.