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Researchers link Texas' abortion ban to surge in state's infant mortality rate

Texas was among the first states to enact a stringent abortion law, with it going into effect on Sept. 1, 2021.
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Posted at 11:12 AM, Jun 25, 2024

Researchers from Johns Hopkins University said in a new study that their findings suggest Texas' 2021 abortion ban has had a devastating impact on the state's infant mortality rate.

The researchers published their findings in JAMA Pediatrics on Monday.

They compared infant mortality between 2021 and 2022. What they found was infant deaths in Texas rose from 1,985 in 2021 to 2,240 in 2022. They said the 12.9% increase in infant deaths came at a time when the U.S. had an overall increase of 1.8% in infant deaths.

Texas was among the first states to enact a stringent abortion law, with it going into effect on Sept. 1, 2021, more than 10 months before the Supreme Court overturned Roe V. Wade. Texas' law did not allow for exceptions for congenital anomalies, researchers noted.

The researchers said they narrowed their analysis to examine changes in infant deaths from March to December 2022, marking the first set of pregnancies under the new law. The Johns Hopkins University researchers estimated 216 excess infant deaths occurred in Texas during that time.

“Our study is particularly relevant given the June 2022 Dobbs Supreme Court decision that returned abortion lawmaking to states and subsequent rollbacks of reproductive rights in many states,” says Alison Gemmill, Johns Hopkins assistant professor and one of the study’s lead authors. “These findings suggest that restrictive abortion policies may have important unintended consequences in terms of infant health and the associated trauma to families and medical costs.”

The researchers also noted that there was a 22.9% increase in infant deaths tied to congenital anomalies between 2021 and 2022, while the rest of the U.S. had a 3.1% decrease.

“Our results suggest that restrictive abortion policies that limit pregnant people’s ability to terminate pregnancies, particularly those with fetal abnormalities diagnosed later in pregnancy, may lead to increases in infant mortality,” said Suzanne Bell, assistant professor at JHU and one of the study's lead authors.

Numerous states have placed significant restrictions on accessing abortions in the wake of a 2022 decision that ended the nationwide right to access an abortion before fetal viability, which is generally before 20-24 weeks.

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