Texas 'Pro-Life' Abortion Ban Linked To Stark Rise In Infant Deaths

Texas’ six-week abortion ban, a 2021 law whose GOP backers claimed would “protect innocent human life,” is linked to a staggering rise in infant deaths, a new study published Monday in the Journal of the American Medical Association found.

The study, published on the second anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, found that the Texas ban was “associated with unexpected increases in infant and neonatal mortality in 2022,” suggesting that despite Republican sermonizing on these bans as life-saving, “abortion restrictions may have negative spillover effects on infant health.”

Between 2021, when the ban went into effect, and 2022, the study found infant deaths in Texas jumped from 1,985 to 2,240 ― a 12.9% increase. The rest of the country, meanwhile, only saw a 1.8% increase. Similar data was observed in neonatal babies in their first 28 days of life.

Many of those deaths were due to congenital abnormalities in the infants, one of the myriad reasons patients may choose to terminate a pregnancy, especially later into term. In 2022, the study found that infant deaths attributable to that cause saw a 22.9% increase, compared to 3.1% for the rest of the country.

“Although replication and further analyses are needed to understand the mechanisms behind these findings, the results suggest that restrictive abortion policies may have important unintended consequences in terms of trauma to families and medical cost as a result of increases in infant mortality,” the study authors from Johns Hopkins and Michigan State University wrote.

Much of the 2022 period studied ― March through December ― was when Texas’ six-week ban was the strictest abortion law in the nation. To enact that law, GOP lawmakers found a legal loophole allowing for a citizen-enforced abortion ban despite the protections still offered by Roe v. Wade. After the Supreme Court struck down that ruling, upending abortion federal protections, 14 states, including Texas, have completely banned the procedure at all stages of pregnancy.

Neither Texas Gov. Greg Abbott nor the bill’s author, state Sen. Bryan Hughes (R), immediately responded to requests for comment on the study’s findings about the ban they backed.

And despite billing itself as the “pro-life” party, the Texas GOP voted on a platform last month that would define abortion care as homicide, opening up the possibility of the death penalty for abortion patients. The party has not publicly released the results of that vote and did not immediately respond to inquiries seeking an update.