Researchers See Link Between Abortion Ban, Newborn Deaths

In the law's first year, fatalities rose 13% in Texas and 2% in the nation overall
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 24, 2024 5:50 PM CDT
Research Links Rise in Deaths of Newborns to Abortion Ban
Texas Medical Board members, from left, Sharon Barnes, Dr. Manuel Quinones, Executive Director Brint Carlton, and Dr. Sherif Zaafran, listen to public comments during a March meeting to discuss guidance around physicians for medical exceptions to Texas' abortion ban at the George H.W. Bush State Office...   (Jay Janner/Austin American-Statesman via AP, File)

Researchers said Monday that a jump in infant and newborn deaths in Texas follows from the state's near-total ban on early-pregnancy abortions. The year after the ban was approved, infant deaths in Texas increased almost 13%, from 1,985 in 2021 to 2,240 in 2022, NBC News reports. During the same period, infant deaths nationally rose about 2%. "This is pointing to a causal effect of the policy; we didn't see this increase in infant deaths in other states," said Alison Gemmill, who led the research, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. The study was published Monday in JAMA Pediatrics.

CNN had reported the increase in infant deaths last year, which the study pointed to, while saying there had been no "systematic evaluation of infant mortality" since the Texas law took effect. This study supports the suspected connection, researchers said. The statute includes no exceptions for rape, incest, or birth defects, per CNN. It says an abortion is permitted only if the doctor believes there's a medical emergency. The Texas law was passed about a year before the US Supreme Court's Dobbs decision, which ended legal protections for abortion access and was followed by new state bans. "This might foreshadow what is happening in other states," Gemmill said. "Texas is basically a year ahead."

Researchers also found that the number of congenital anomalies increased in Texas from 2021 to 2022 but not in the rest of the nation during that time. "This shows what probably was expected before the Dobbs decision, that there would be downstream unintended consequences by banning abortions in early pregnancy," said Dr. Mary Rosser, of Columbia University Irving Medical Center, who was not involved with the study. The study's authors called for more research, saying "restrictive abortion policies may have important unintended consequences in terms of trauma to families and medical cost." (More Texas abortion law stories.)

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