Texas deaths of newborns rose 13% after the abortion ban

More newborns and infants are dying in Texas as the state’s abortion ban begins to show its impact.

A new study, published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics, shows a disturbing yet predictable trend in infant mortality. After a Texas law that banned abortions in early pregnancy went into effect in September 2021, infant and newborn deaths drastically increased.

Texas Senate Bill 8 (SB8) banned abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected. Banning abortion at that phase, as early as five or six weeks, means that abortion is banned almost entirely, given that most people don’t even know they’re pregnant at that point. It was a sharp turn for Texas, which had previously allowed abortion up to 22 weeks.

Notably, there were no exceptions written into the law for congenital anomalies or other conditions that may lead to infant death soon after birth. And for pregnant persons who may be forced to carry to term a baby to that will die soon after delivery, the law has been a truly agonizing one.

The study examined death rates in Texas from 2018 to 2022 and compared them to those of 28 other states. The results were staggering. The infant death rate shot up 13% in 2022, the year after the law passed, going from 1,985 to 2,240. Unsurprisingly, infants born with congenital anomalies died 23% more in Texas, though nationally, the same rate fell by 3%.

Overall, infant death rose by 2% in the U.S. in 2022. With 14 states having now enacted near-total abortion bans since Roe v. Wade was overturned two years ago, the numbers are expected to keep rising. Texas effectively banned abortion about a year before the Supreme Court decision that stopped federal protections on abortion, which is why Texas is seeing the increase before other states that have now outlawed abortion.

After the Supreme Court ruling, Republican-controlled states seized the opportunity to impose abortion restrictions. It has not been without grave repercussions, such as more infant deaths. And families are suffering. Some people who were forced to carry their babies to term despite the pregnancy threatening their own health, or who knew their baby would not survive outside the womb, are suing their states claiming they were traumatized by what they had to go through.

Last month, Texas Supreme Court justices pushed back against claims made in a lawsuit brought by 22 women who say their lives were put in danger due to the ban.

“Texas law permits a life-saving abortion. Under the Human Life Protection Act, a physician may perform an abortion if, exercising reasonable medical judgment, the physician determines that a woman has a life-threatening physical condition that places her at risk of death or serious physical impairment unless an abortion is performed,” Texas Supreme Court Justice Jane Bland wrote in the court’s majority opinion.

On Monday, Planned Parenthood announced its plan to spend $40 million bolstering President Biden’s reelection campaign and to reinstate abortion rights. “Abortion will be the message of this election, and it will be how we energize voters,” said Jenny Lawson, executive director of Planned Parenthood Votes. “It will be what enables us to win.”

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