By Eleanor Klibanoff
Originally appeared in the Texas Tribune
This is the first analysis of live births since the law, which banned abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, went into effect in September 2021.
Close to 10,000 additional babies were born over a nine-month period after Texas banned most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, a new analysis from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health shows.
This is the first analysis of live birth rates since the law, known as Senate Bill 8, went into effect in September 2021. Texas has since banned nearly all abortions from the moment of conception, except when necessary to save the life of the pregnant patient.
Analyzing live births in April through December 2022, the study captures people who were at least seven weeks pregnant when the law went into effect or later became pregnant. The researchers used historical birth data to model how many births likely would have occurred in Texas if the law hadn’t gone into effect and compared that to the number of actual births.
In December 2022, more than a year after the law went into effect, Texas had 5% more live births than would have been expected if the law didn’t go into effect.
“Although our study doesn’t detail why these extra births occurred, our findings strongly suggest that a considerable number of pregnant individuals in Texas were unable to overcome barriers to abortion access,” said Alison Gemmill, one of the study’s lead authors.
After the ban on abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy went into effect, Texans were finding ways to circumvent the law and terminate their pregnancies. People showed up to clinics earlier in pregnancy; there was a spike in demand for abortion-inducing medication from AidAccess, an online provider; and clinics in nearby states saw a flood of Texans.
But advocates and clinics warned that there was no way these workarounds were accessible to everyone who previously would have sought an abortion.
“Almost 70% of our patients are parents already,” Amy Hagstrom Miller, the CEO of abortion provider Whole Woman’s Health, told The Texas Tribune in February 2022. “They’re managing work and kids [and] school during a pandemic. They can’t travel a few days to a different state. It just basically means abortion … is off the table.”
Nine months after the law went into effect, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization to overturn the right to abortion granted by 1973’s Roe v. Wade. Texas then moved to ban nearly all abortions from the moment of conception. Fourteen states now ban or significantly restrict abortions, including all but one of Texas’ neighbors, the state of New Mexico.
“If, previously, people were able to leave the state to go to a neighboring state to seek an abortion, that’s no longer an option,” Gemmill said. “So it’s possible that we could be seeing even greater increases post-Dobbs.”
Texas Right to Life, the state’s largest anti-abortion advocacy group, celebrated the news of 10,000 additional live births as a result of the law.
“Every baby saved from elective abortion should be celebrated,” said Texas Right to Life president John Seago. “This new study highlights the significant success of our movement in the last two years, while we look forward to helping the mothers and families of our state care for their children.”
Earlier this year, the Texas Legislature voted to allocate an additional $20 million a year to the Alternatives to Abortion program, which funds crisis pregnancy centers and nonprofits that provide some material support to new parents. Lawmakers also eliminated a requirement that 75% of the funding go to evidence-based programming.
The state is still battling persistently high maternal mortality numbers, a crisis disproportionately impacting Black women, and is staring down a health care provider shortage that is already limiting labor and delivery options in rural areas.
Compared to states where abortion remains legal, states that have restricted abortion access tend to have fewer maternity care providers, higher rates of maternal mortality and greater racial inequities across their health care system, a 2022 study from the Commonwealth Fund found.