Memes inaccurately paraphrase a May 2022 statement by Johnson in which he argued that, were it not for Roe v. Wade legalizing abortion, America would have "had all those able-bodied workers in the economy," and, as a result, there would be less strain on Social Security and Medicare today.
Following the Oct. 25, 2023, election of U.S. Representative Mike Johnson, R-La., to the post of Speaker of the House, a meme attributing the statement "Every American woman has a duty to birth at least one able-bodied worker" to him went viral:
Snopes has not identified any instance of Johnson saying these words. They instead appear to stem from an inaccurate paraphrase of a statement Johnson made about Roe v. Wade. Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee, and others, posted the seed that spawned that meme on social media following Johnson's election:
During a House Judiciary Committee hearing, Rep. Mike Johnson attacks Roe v. Wade, insisting that if only women were compelled to bring more "able-bodied workers" into the world, Republicans wouldn’t need to slash Social Security and Medicare. pic.twitter.com/RGzg09TYEW
— House Judiciary Dems (@HouseJudiciary) October 25, 2023
"During a House Judiciary Committee hearing," the post read, "Rep. Mike Johnson attack[ed] Roe v. Wade, insisting that if only women were compelled to bring more 'able-bodied workers' into the world, Republicans wouldn’t need to slash Social Security and Medicare." This is a fair characterization of arguments made by Johnson during a May 11, 2022, House Judiciary Subcommittee hearing that discussed, in part, Supreme Court ethics.
Johnson shared this excerpt to his official YouTube channel in the form of a video titled "Congressman Johnson on Overturning Roe v. Wade: I will not yield" on the day of the hearing. Viral versions of the video circulating in October and November 2023 omitted the middle paragraph of Johnson's remarks, which are shown below:
Roe v. Wade gave constitutional cover to the elective killing of unborn children in America. Period. Think about it. Let it settle on you. As a result, the lives of more than 63 million American children have been lost. Think about the staggering implications of that.
I was born in January, 1972. I'm just a year older [...] than Roe. [...] 63 million represents somewhere between one half and one third of my entire generation. My high school class should have been almost twice as large as it was [...]. If you're under the age of 50, your class should have been twice as larger, maybe a third larger than it was. Your classmates were not allowed to be born.
You think about the implications of that on the economy. We're all struggling here to cover the bases of social security and Medicare and Medicaid and all the rest. If we had all those able-bodied workers in the economy, we wouldn't be going upside down and toppling over like this. Listen, [...] Roe was a terrible corruption of America's constitutional jurisprudence.
Viral posts on social media following the shorter Oct. 25 release of the video were quick to paraphrase the statement in ways similar to the meme form in circulation now. One representative post from Oct. 28 on X that had received over 500,000 views at the time of this reporting compared Johnson to Chinese President Xi:
Chinese President Xi: "Every ... woman has a duty to birth at least one able-bodied worker." Wait... That wasn't Xi. Or any communist. That was GOP Speaker of the House Mike Johnson.
NPR affiliate Red River Radio KDAQ, which serves East Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas and parts of Mississippi, quoted a local activist who repeated the above characterization of the quote as if it were fact in an Oct. 31, 2021, story:
Local LGBTQ activist Alana Oldham tells me the mood has changed lately, into a climate of fear for some. “I’m 53 years old and I’ve been out as a lesbian since I was 18 and I’ve never once been afraid for my safety until 2023 happened.”
Oldham cites one remark in particular by Johnson that left the greatest impression on her: “I’m looking at this quote from Mike Johnson where he says every American woman has a duty to birth at least one able-bodied worker. And that is just, that’s Handmaid’s Tale level scary stuff.”
The KDAQ story, which repeated a second-hand characterization, is the only media source attributing the quote — as it appears in memes — to Mike Johnson. Because the underlying source that serves as the basis for that statement does not use these words, the claim that he said them is False.