Study: Abortion Restrictions Led to 9,800 More Births in Texas Over Nine Months
Johns Hopkins University reseach was the first of its kind to investigate how abortion laws impact birth rates.
The six-week abortion ban in Texas, which outlaws abortions after the detection of a fetal heartbeat, led to nearly 9,800 more births in the state over a nine-month period than otherwise expected, according to research published in The Journal of the American Medical Association.
Researchers from Johns Hopkins University found that Texas’ abortion policies likely led to 9,799 more births between April 2022 and December 2022. The study was the first of its kind to investigate how abortion laws impact birth rates.
“There has been a lot of speculation about how restrictive abortion policies will affect the number of babies being born,” Alison Gemmill, one of the lead researchers in the study, said in a news release published by the university.
“This research adds valuable information to that discussion,” Gemmill added. “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.”
The peer-reviewed study created a statistical model of Texas to estimate the likely birth rates in the state if it had not passed abortion restrictions by using birthing data in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., from 2016 through 2022, according to the news release. The model suggested that, without new abortion restrictions, there would have likely been 287,289 births within that nine-month period. With the restrictions in place, the state saw 297,088 births, which is more than 3.35% higher.
Each month analyzed in the research saw birth rates higher than expected, but the total increase fluctuated from month to month. At its lowest point, in April and May, birth rates were 1.7% higher than would be expected without the abortion restrictions. At the highest point, in December, birth rates were 5.1% higher than would have been expected.
Shortly before Texas’ abortion ban went into effect, the Texas Legislature bolstered funding for the state’s Alternatives to Abortion program to $100 million over fiscal years 2022 and 2023. In June of this year, the state Legislature increased the funding further with another $25 million added into the 2023 budget cycle and $140 million over fiscal years 2024 and 2025.
The program provides funding for services to assist women with their pregnancies and to help mothers with young children. This includes material assistance, such as clothing, diapers and baby formula, and other services, such as counseling and classes on pregnancy, parenting and adoption.
“We are thrilled to see that the protective laws the Texas Legislature put in place in 2021 are working: Abortions have dramatically decreased, and births have increased,” Joe Pojman, the executive director of Texas Alliance for Life, told CNA.
“Those children are welcome in Texas, which provides vast resources for women with unplanned pregnancies who carry their unborn children to term, give birth to the babies, and keep or place the babies for adoption,” Pojman said. “Texas [has] more than 300 pregnancy centers, maternity homes, and adoption agencies and countless church-based ministries to care for mothers and babies for years after their births.”
Pojman added that the organization expects that birth rates will continue to rise with the additional funding the state Legislature provided for the Alternatives to Abortion program.
Kimberlyn Schwartz, a spokesperson for Texas Right to Life, told CNA that “we praise God for every baby rescued by the Texas Heartbeat Act.”
“It’s surreal to see the historic, life-saving impact of our pro-life law and the unique role Texas Right to Life had in its passage,” Schwartz said. “This new study highlights the power of our movement, that there are nearly 10,000 children alive today who otherwise could have been aborted. But our work is not done there: We look forward to helping the mothers and families of our state care for their children through our ministry.”
The news release from Johns Hopkins University added that the results cannot be generalized on a national level because the research was reserved to just one state. It also noted that the authors will conduct further research into how the abortion restrictions affected different demographic groups when more data becomes available.