Texas Abortion Legislation Contributes to a Surge in Births, JAMA Study Reveals
From April to December 2022, an unprecedented swell in the number of births in Texas was documented, a phenomenon linked to the state’s stringent abortion law implemented in 2021.
According to the groundbreaking research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), there were approximately 10,000 additional births recorded during these months, a staggering 3% increase compared to previous years.
The Ripple Effects of Texas Senate Bill 8
Texas Senate Bill 8, a controversial law that prohibits abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, was enacted nearly ten months before the US Supreme Court’s Dobbs ruling, which revoked the nationwide right to abortion.
This regulation resulted in a significant shift in birth trends in Texas, driving researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health to undertake a comprehensive analysis of the issue.
The Data: Comparing Birth Trends Before and After the Law
The researchers compared the actual number of births reported in the state with a hypothetical scenario: what birth trends would have likely been without the law in effect.
They used data from other states and Texas’s birth records from the years preceding the new law as the basis for their comparison.
Between April and December 2022, when the effects of the policy change began to manifest, approximately 297,000 total births were recorded. In contrast, the projected number of births without the law would have been around 287,000.
Why Texas Stands Out
“Texas is really unique in that it is one of the states that had one of the higher abortion rates – and, because of the population size, a relatively large number of abortions,” said Suzanne Bell, an assistant professor at Johns Hopkins University and co-author of the research.
The Broader Implications of the Dobbs Decision
Given the complexity of this issue, it’s challenging to use these findings to predict the broader impacts of the Dobbs decision. Moreover, as the bill came into effect, many Texas residents sought abortions out of state.
With more than a dozen states now enforcing abortion bans, however, this option is becoming increasingly limited.
The Role of Sociodemographics and Self-Managed Abortion
The research also sheds light on the intersection of abortion care with poverty, racism, and other sociodemographic factors. Bell emphasizes the importance of understanding the individual experiences of those denied abortion services.
“People who are denied a needed abortion experience a range of negative impacts on their physical and mental health,” she said.
Further Investigations Needed on Birth Rates and Social Policies
Future research should also consider the potential impact of poor policies around paid family leave and child care options, suggests Beth Jarosz, a program director with the nonprofit Population Reference Bureau.