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Sen. Whitehouse advocates reproductive rights from a different angle

Kaicie Boeglin

News Editor


Rhode Island Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse took to Washington D.C. statements on reproductive rights in reference to economic rights. Sen. Whitehouse (D-RI)  is the chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on the Budget (USCB) and made the opening statements at the Feb. 28 hearing, titled “No Rights to Speak of: The Economic Harms of Restricting Reproductive Freedom.”


Statements were made by chairman Sen. Whitehouse and ranking member Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). Testimony was presented by five separate witnesses, Professor Caitlin Myers, Dr. Leilah Zahedi-Spung MD FACOG, Adjunct Fellow Leslie Ford, Mrs. Allie Phillips and Tamra Call, MSN, RN. Each statement and testimony is archived by the USCB.


Image from Teen Vogue

Sen. Whitehouse is advocating for reproductive freedom by enhancing the economic value the freedom presents to the nation. “Any serious conversation about debt and deficits must also analyze threats to economic growth and stability.  Debt and deficits do not occur in a vacuum. They result from the fiscal decisions we make, and from what we do that strengthens or weakens our economy. Reproductive rights are intrinsically tied to economic opportunity.  Reproductive justice is economic justice.”


He states, “The Dobbs decision triggered an immediate crisis for millions of women, as antiquated state bans snapped back into place and some states implemented new restrictions on reproductive freedom. Doctors, too, lose their freedom to practice medicine as they are trained, delivering patient-centered, evidence-based care. I hear from Rhode Island OBGYNs about their colleagues in other states being put in impossible positions, with the lives of women and babies put in jeopardy.” Later on saying, “That freedom — to decide if and when to have a child — affects a woman’s life trajectory and her family’s financial security.  As the pivotal Turnaway Study found: women denied an abortion, who had to carry a pregnancy to term, were four times more likely to live in poverty. “


Professor Myers served as the leading economist for the hearing, testifying: we can measure the economic harms from dismantling Roe v. Wade easily, especially in already marginalized communities. Myers' testimonial proved pivotal to Sen. Whitehouse’s point of reproductive freedom and choice helps both the economy and women's health.  She included abortions and contraception lowers maternal mortality, alleviates health risks, increases women’s earnings, increases the probability that women attend college and can boost local economies. Witnesses Allie Phillips and Dr. Zahedi-Spung further explained how new draconian state laws put patients, their families, and physicians into tragic situations.


Planned Parenthood v. Casey, showed economic values were key to the Court’s holding as the Court said: “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.”


However Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992) came to a decision based on the precedent of Roe v. Wade (1973) which was overturned in 2022. But Planned Parenthood v. Casey established abortion restrictions are unconstitutional through the undue burden test if they pose burdens that outweigh the benefits. Sen. Whitehouse and the USCB have a firm stance that reproductive rights offer economic prosperity for the nation and that the undue burden test is still viable in the sense of economy.

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