(The Center Square) – Two years after the Texas legislature passed the Heartbeat Act, a new analysis published by Johns Hopkins estimates that nearly 9,800 babies were born in Texas because of it in just eight months.
In a peer-reviewed research letter published in JAMA, “researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health estimate that a Texas abortion ban that went into effect in September 2021 was associated with 9,799 additional live births in the state between April and December 2022,” Johns Hopkins reported.
SB 8, filed by state Sen. Bryan Hughes, R-Mineola, passed with bipartisan support and Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law in May 2021. By October 2021, a federal judge halted it. By April 2022, the Fifth Circuit overturned his ruling, ending all challenges to the law. After the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade in June 2022, Texas’ law went into full effect in August 2022.
The law bans abortions from being performed in Texas as soon as a heartbeat of the preborn baby is detected, with limited exceptions. It created a second-degree felony offense for a person who knowingly performs, induces, or attempts an abortion. The offense is enhanced to a first-degree felony if an unborn child dies from an abortion. Anyone who violates the law performing an abortion can also be subject to a minimum civil penalty of $100,000 for each violation, with exceptions.
The new study is believed to be the first to examine the impact of the law. “Although our study doesn’t detail why these extra births occurred, our findings strongly suggest that a considerable number of pregnant individuals in Texas were unable to overcome barriers to abortion access,” Alison Gemmill, assistant professor in the Bloomberg School’s Department of Population, Family and Reproductive Health, and one of the study’s lead authors, said.
Suzanne Bell, another lead author of the study, said, “The study’s findings highlight how abortion bans have real implications for birthing people, thousands of whom may have had no choice but to continue an unwanted or unsafe pregnancy to term. Notably, the majority of people who seek abortions live below or close to the poverty line. So many of these birthing people and their families were likely struggling financially even before the recent birth.”
In response to the study’s findings, Gov. Greg Abbott’s press secretary, Andrew Mahaleris, told The Center Square, “Texas is a pro-life state, and Governor Abbott will always fight for the most vulnerable among us. In 2021, thanks to the work of the Texas Legislature and pro-life leaders across the state, Texas passed a critical law to save the innocent unborn, and now thousands of children have been given a chance at life.”
Abbott and the legislature also prioritized supporting women’s healthcare and expectant mothers by expanding a range of services, Mahaleris said. Last year, the state launched FamilyResources.texas.gov listing all available free or low-cost services. This year, Abbott signed bills into law to extend Medicaid health-care coverage to 12 months post-partum, appropriated over $447 million for women’s health programs and invested over $140 million in the Thriving Texas Families program.
After the bill passed, Hughes said he believed “it’s the best heartbeat bill passed in America.” When asked how many abortions it would prevent, he replied, “The answer — tens of thousands.”
Hughes told The Center Square, “I am honored to have authored the Texas Heartbeat Act that has saved more than 10,000 little babies in the past two years. Each of these lives is a gift of God and reflects His image. And since passage of the Heartbeat Act, we have drastically increased funding for expectant and new mothers and their babies.
“In Texas, we are proving that we can save the life of the baby while we love, and respect, and support the mother.”
Texas Right to Life spokeswoman Kimberly Schwartz told The Center Square, “It’s surreal to see the historic, life-saving impact of our Pro-Life law and the unique role Texas Right to Life had in its passage.” The Houston-based organization was the target of a bomb threat and other threats because of its support for the bill.
“This new study highlights the power of our movement, that there are nearly 10,000 children alive today who otherwise could have been aborted,” she said. It “has saved not only these lives, but the generations that will come after them.” TRL’s ministry is also helping mothers and families care for their children, she said.
Another prolife leader who defeated several legal challenges and started a national movement to create Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn, also commented on the law’s success. Mark Lee Dickson, director of Right to Life of East Texas and founder of Sanctuary Cities for the Unborn Initiative, told The Center Square, “The Texas Heartbeat Act was, under Roe v. Wade, the first pre-viability anti-abortion law passed at the state level which went into effect, survived a challenge, and was complied with by the abortion industry.”
So far at least 67 cities and three counties nationwide have passed “Sanctuary City for the Unborn” ordinances outlawing abortion. The majority are in Texas, but the movement has spread to cities and counties in Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Ohio, Nebraska, and New Mexico, and is growing.