Worried new mom comforts her newborn baby while talking with the child's pediatrician.

Infant Death Spikes 10% Under Texas Abortion Ban

Texas's 2022 abortion ban puts even more lives at risk than it did in 2021.

Texas, along with several other states, enacted pre-written trigger laws last year after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and its protections for abortion rights. Total abortion bans, like the one in Texas, have—as we all predicted—proven to do more harm than good when it comes to the health of both pregnant people and their unborn babies. However, infant mortality rates resulting from complications during pregnancy have been on the rise since the 6-week abortion ban in 2021. The revocation of abortion as a federally-protected right has only intensified the danger of being pregnant in Texas.

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Besides a double-digit spike in infant mortality rates, the ban has caused doctors who previously performed abortions in the state to flee to blue states where the practice is still protected. A shortage of doctors in a state where abortion access is already in a chokehold means that pregnant people who cannot travel to bigger cities have almost no chance of getting the care they need.

One of the reasons Texas doctors are either fleeing or refusing to provide care is because of the ban’s confusing language. Doctors aren’t entirely clear on what constitutes an emergency exception under the law, so they can’t even be certain what completely reasonable medical decisions could put them in prison. Lawmakers have stated that the only exception to the ban is if the life of the pregnant person is threatened by complications related to the pregnancy, but there are no guidelines as to what that could entail. Doctors who provide abortion access in situations that the law does not consider to be emergencies could face serious consequences: 99 years in prison, a potential fine of not less than $100,000, and revocation of their medical license.

In 2021, one year before Roe was overturned, Texas codified a 6-week abortion ban: Abortions were only permitted before the 6-week mark, well before most people even know they are pregnant. This ban was an obvious attempt at working around the then-precedent established by Roe, seeking to make abortion access as difficult as possible without a implementing a total ban. Though the 6-week ban also contained exceptions for medical emergencies, the rate of infant mortality increased as a result of its enactment. This only makes sense, since both the 6-week ban and the total ban prohibit abortion even if doctors confirm that the fetus has a zero percent chance of surviving the duration of the pregnancy or after birth.

After the 6-week ban took effect, abortion clinics in Texas saw 80% fewer patients per day. Clinics were required to turn away individuals who were further along than 6 weeks, which was about half of the people seeking care. For these patients, clinics had no choice but to offer suggestions and alternatives instead of actually providing an abortion.

Since seeking care outside of the state is not accessible for many Texans, pregnant individuals have turned to far more dangerous methods of terminating their pregnancies. “Self-managed abortions,” which are extremely dangerous, drastically increased after the implementation of the 6-week ban. With a total abortion ban, the number of self-managed abortions (and resulting deaths) among Texans who cannot leave the state for care will increase even more.

(featured image: SDI Productions/Getty Images)


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Scout (she/her/hers) is a freelance news writer for The Mary Sue. When not scrolling Twitter, she's thinking about scrolling Twitter. She likes short walks on the beach, glitter pens, and burnt coffee. She does not read the comments.