A new Texas law banning most abortions didn’t stop abortion, or even dramatically reduce the abortion rate, two new studies show. While the abortion rate dropped by half in the months following the passage of the law, this decline eventually leveled off, and pregnant people began traveling to other states to seek abortions. The overall abortion rate only declined slightly, but other studies show that the effects on pregnant people and their families continue to be catastrophic, and even deadly.
Texas abortion ban doesn’t stop abortion
After the passage of Senate Bill 8, which banned most abortions, the number of Texans traveling to out-of-state abortion clinics multiplied tenfold, a new study argues. A second study found a correlation between the implementation of SB 8 and an increase in telehealth abortions, which allow pregnant people to buy abortion pills online and then self-manage their abortions. Previous research has found that telehealth abortion is both safe and potentially life-saving.
Taken together, the two studies suggest that the overall abortion rate among Texas pregnant people fell by about 10%.
Data from other studies supports the claim that abortion bans don’t stop, or even dramatically reduce, abortion. In Latin America, where abortion is mostly illegal, the abortion rate is significantly higher than in the United States. So is the abortion-related death rate.
It’s never been a secret that abortion bans don’t work. The point isn’t really to end abortion; it’s to hurt people who need abortions. And on that measure, the Texas abortion ban is succeeding wildly.
An increase in late-term abortions
When pregnant people must travel out of state for abortion, the cost of the procedure climbs. This may delay the procedure well past the first trimester, resulting in costlier surgeries with a higher risk of complications.
A 2019 study on abortion restrictions in place in Texas at the time found that more abortion restrictions lead to more late abortions. Prior to the passage of a number of new restrictions, second trimester abortions comprised about 10% of Texas abortions. Anti-choice laws drove that rate to 14.5%--and the rate will almost certainly climb much higher now that abortion is almost totally banned.
Another study of Ohio abortion restrictions also found that more restrictions meant more second trimester abortions—even though the overall abortion rate did not decline.
Choice advocates have long warned that pregnant people will always seek bodily autonomy, even when it is illegal. Self-induced abortions were common before the widespread legalization of abortion, and in Texas they’re returning.
Back in 2019, in the wake of new anti-choice restrictions but prior to the new law, researchers found that 8% of Texas women induced their own abortions. Unsafe abortions, including self-induced abortions, kill about 50,000 women worldwide each year. If the restrictions of 2019 were enough to increase self-induced abortions, a near-ban will certainly drive the rate even higher.
The deadly toll of abortion bans
It’s no secret to anyone that abortion will never go away. For as long as there have been people, women have sought to control our fertility and avoid unwanted pregnancy. In the only wealthy nation where maternal mortality is rising, the incentive to seek an abortion is even greater, since every pregnancy poses a threat to the life of the pregnant person. A 2021 study showed that abortion bans kill women, driving maternal mortality up by 21%.
Anti-choice zealots can see the same data the rest of us can. They also know that the overwhelming majority of Americans, including most Republicans, oppose abortion bans. This is why they’re so eager to pass abortion restrictions at the same time as voting restrictions. Their goals are fundamentally undemocratic, and deadly to women.