Nearly 10,000 more babies were born in Texas in the months after the state enacted a first-of-its-kind abortion ban in September 2021, according to new research from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
The research, which evaluated births between April and December 2022, found that Texas’ Senate Bill 8 was associated with 9,799 additional live births. The legislation outlawed abortions after fetal cardiac activity was detected — usually around six weeks of pregnancy, when many people do not yet know they are pregnant.
The study does not explicitly detail why the extra births happened, but “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 lead authors of the study.
“The study’s findings highlight how abortion bans have real implications for birthing people, thousands of whom may have had no choice but to continue an unwanted or unsafe pregnancy to term,” said Suzanne Bell, another lead author. “Notably, the majority of people who seek abortions live below or close to the poverty line. So many of these birthing people and their families were likely struggling financially even before the recent birth.”
Texas’ ban was enacted about 10 months before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the landmark case Roe vs. Wade, which had guaranteed federal abortion protections for almost five decades. The ban is unusually enforced through civilian lawsuits, allowing any person to sue doctors, advocates and others who helped a pregnant Texan obtain an abortion after the six-week mark.
There are few exceptions. Before SB 8, Texas had allowed abortions up to 22 weeks gestation for any reason.
After the Supreme Court’s decision, Texas enacted a separate ban prohibiting all abortions at any time in pregnancy, except in cases where the mother’s life is at risk.
Texas Republicans who championed the abortion bans say they protect the lives of unborn children. Democratic opponents say the laws are an infringement on individual rights and force Texans to have children they may not be prepared to care for.
For their study, the Johns Hopkins researchers used monthly live birth data from every state and Washington, D.C., to model how many live births would have been expected in Texas between April and December of last year. They landed on 287,289, and the actual number of births during that time period was about 10,000 more.
They plan to continue studying the impacts of SB 8 on different demographic groups, according to a news release from Johns Hopkins.