A new study finds that more babies have been born in Texas since it restricted abortions last year, challenging the claim that women there are simply terminating pregnancies out of state.
The number of babies born in Texas between March and July (157,856) exceeded the previous three-year average by more than 5,000, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute, a pro-life research nonprofit that analyzed data from the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The Texas Heartbeat Act, which bans most abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected, became law in September 2021. Between September 2021 and January 2022, the number of abortions in the state dropped by 10,000.
“This is powerful statistical evidence that the Texas Heartbeat Act is saving thousands of lives,” said Michael New, a Catholic University of America professor of social research who conducted the study.
Mr. New noted that the number of reported abortions in Texas declined by 3,455 between August 2021 and September 2021. The monthly average then fell by more than 2,760 during the first five months of the act’s enforcement, he said.
But Mary Ziegler, a leading expert on the legal history of the U.S. abortion debate, said the study may suggest that women could be having more unreported abortions.
“The study is helpful, but we have to take it with a grain of salt because it’s hard to get data in a world where abortions are illegal,” said Ms. Ziegler, a law professor at the University of California, Davis. “Modestly, I would say the data shows that some people who would have abortions aren’t having them, but not as many as you would expect. Some abortions are happening underground or out of state.”
Ms. Ziegler said it’s impossible to know how many women have ordered abortion pills online to terminate pregnancies at home without reporting them because of the new law.
The Supreme Court let stand the Texas ban nearly a year before overturning Roe v. Wade, the 1973 landmark decision that established a national right to abortion. Consequently, Texas has released the most complete abortion statistics following a statewide ban to date.
The Texas Heartbeat Act allows private citizens to sue any medical provider who performs or assists with an abortion after six weeks of pregnancy.
Another state ban, the Texas Human Life Protection Act, took effect in August this year. That law extends complete legal protection from abortion to “the unborn child” from the moment of conception.
Economist Walter E. Block, a professor at Loyola University New Orleans, said such laws have reduced consumer demand for abortions by raising their “price.”
“The more you are charged, the less you will buy,” Mr. Block said. “So, it should occasion no surprise that there would be fewer of them. Other things [being] equal, pregnancies remain the same, there will be more babies born.”
Texas Values, a Christian advocacy group that tracks statewide data online, estimates abortions are down by 65,204 since the heartbeat law took effect last year.
“Now that abortion is illegal in Texas, we can average that around 150 babies are being saved every day from abortion,” said attorney Jonathan Saenz, president of the Austin-based group.
Some pro-life groups said the Charlotte Lozier report confirms that abortions are declining in Texas as a result of the recent laws.
“Texas is ready for this moment,” said Joe Pojman, executive director of Texas Alliance for Life.
Shawn D. Carney, founder and CEO of the international prayer campaign 40 Days for Life, said the report refutes the idea that women reject alternatives to abortion.
“The thousands of babies being born and not aborted will continue to go up and, in Texas, many pregnancy centers who are seeing an increase think that the current estimates are very conservative,” Mr. Carney said.
Several pro-choice groups declined to comment.
Michael Warder, a California-based corporate and nonprofit consultant, said he’s “skeptical of studies concerning the impact of state abortion laws” since most come from advocacy groups on both sides.
“There is also the question of the interests of funding sources and the impact this has on gathering data and reaching conclusions,” said Mr. Warder, a former vice chancellor at Pepperdine University. “The pro and con forces behind these studies simply do not easily lend themselves to what may be termed social science.”