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Infant Mortality Spikes In Texas After Abortion Ban

Critics of Texas’s near-total ban on abortion claimed that the law would only create more death, not lessen it. A new study shows that is accurate.

Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health analyzed infant mortality rates starting from the date Texas banned abortion after the detection of activity along the cardiac pole. This comes before most people know they are pregnant and long before fetal testing for abnormalities incompatible with life outside the womb is possible. Texas law makes no exceptions for rape or incest, or fatal abnormalities. A clause that supposedly allows pregnant people to access abortion if their lives are in danger is so vaguely worded that few doctors in the state will provide one out of fear of prosecution.

The numbers from Johns Hopkins show a terrifying picture of the post-Roe reality.

Between 2021 and 2022, the national infant mortality rate rose 2.2 percent, likely driven by the many states that passed similar abortion bans. The rate and Texas, however, rose almost four times that, 8.3 percent. For deaths before their first birthday, infant morality was even higher, 12.9 percent, or over five times the national average.

The reason is likely because pregnant people who would have previously aborted a fetus with genetic abnormalities incompatible with life outside the womb now could not. These abnormalities make up most deaths in infants and can include everything from neural tube defects (where brains don’t form fully) to heart and lung defects.

“Our results suggest that restrictive abortion policies that limit pregnant people’s ability to end pregnancies, particularly those with fetal abnormalities diagnosed later in pregnancy, may lead to increases in infant mortality,” says Suzanne Bell, PhD, MPH, assistant professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health and one of the study’s lead authors. “These findings make clear the potentially devastating consequences abortion bans can have on pregnant people and families who are unable to overcome barriers to this essential reproductive health service.”

Nor does the problem stop at medical problems. Infant deaths from accidents rose nationwide by 1 percent. In Texas, they rose a whopping 21 percent. Possibly, this is because many new parents are having children they were not ready for. Because of financial and other limitations, they may not have the ability to buy proper safety equipment, childproof their home, or arrange adequate childcare when they have to go back to work.

There are limitations to the study. Demographic information wasn’t available, though these deaths are almost certainly more prevalent in low-income areas or among people of color based on other findings. Nor are the exact causes of deaths actually account for.

Since the state banned abortion, researchers estimated about 10,000 new births happened in Texas because of the law between April and December 2021. While the anti-reproductive choice advocates herald that as a net win, it does little to mitigate the appalling spike in infant mortality their poorly worded law has objectively created.  

Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner
Jef Rouner is an award-winning freelance journalist, the author of The Rook Circle, and a member of The Black Math Experiment. He lives in Houston where he spends most of his time investigating corruption and strange happenings. Jef has written for Houston Press, Free Press Houston, and Houston Chronicle.


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