DALAS (AP) – Texas has released data showing a significant decline in abortions at state clinics in the first month under the country’s strictest abortion law, but that’s only part of the story.
A study released Friday that shows Texans’ demand for abortion pills in the mail helps complement the picture, as well as more about the number of women who have visited clinics outside the state and how many have failed abortions. the result of giving birth.
“I think the big question is: what’s the new composition of how people get access to abortion?” said Abigail Aiken, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin who studies reproductive health and who led the study looking at requests for abortion drugs by mail.
Here’s a look at what the numbers that have been released so far do – and don’t – tell us:
WHAT SHOULD THE RECENTLY EMPTY NUMBERS SHOW?
Nearly 2,200 abortions were reported by Texas suppliers in September, the month a new state law went into effect that bans the procedure after heart rate detection, which is typically about six weeks pregnant. There are no exceptions in cases of rape or incest.
This is 60% less than in the previous month.
However, researchers note that the number of abortions registered in August – more than 5,400 – was higher than usual this month, probably because clinics were in a hurry to accept women before the law came into force. Therefore, they say, it is also useful to compare the data for September with the same month a year earlier, where the decline was 51%.
The Texas Health and Welfare Commission, which released figures for September this month, publishes monthly abortion data.
WHAT WERE ABOUT ABORTIONS?
Abortion providers predicted that the law would ban at least 85% of abortions in Texas, as traditionally most women went through at least six weeks of pregnancy when they had an abortion. And state figures show that in 2020, only about 15% of abortions were performed in less than six weeks.
So why didn’t there be an even bigger drop in abortions in September?
Researchers say there seemed to be a combination of factors, including women, who tried to schedule appointments as soon as possible rather than when it would be most convenient.
“We see people come to us before they even do a pregnancy test before they even find out if they are pregnant because they are so afraid they might get pregnant and be denied an abortion,” said Amy Hagstrom. . Miller, president of Whole Woman’s Heath, which runs four abortion clinics in Texas.
In addition, researchers say the focus on the new law has led to an influx of funds to help women pay for out-of-state travel and medical fees.
“We don’t see so many people pushing for pregnancy because they’re trying to figure out how to pay for an abortion,” Hagstrom Miller said.
HOW MANY WOMEN RECEIVE ABORTION PALLETS BY MAIL IN Texas?
The number of Texas women who go online to get abortion pills in the mail from foreign nonprofit Aid Access has risen sharply since the law went into effect, according to a study by Aiken.
“We can’t say to what extent exactly the percentage of the gap was filled, but I think we can say that self-directed abortion was important to fill it,” Aiken said.
A study published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Network Open found that in September, Aid Access received 1,831 requests for pills from people in Texas.
In the first week of September, the number of requests per day rose to about 138 from a previous average of 11, the study said. During the following weeks of September an average of 37 requests per day. Then, by December, the average was 30 a day.
“This is another demonstration of the fact that just because you limit abortion, the need for abortion magically doesn’t go away,” Aiken said.
The study’s authors, who say they can’t determine if all inquiries led to abortions, said the initial spike was likely due to confusion when the law went into effect, and some who demanded pills could go to the clinic.
Although a Texas law came into force in December that bans the delivery of such abortion-inducing drugs by mail, experts say it will be difficult to stop suppliers and suppliers outside the state and country.
The law says that a person who takes pills received by mail is not criminally liable.
“It’s not illegal to order pills and take pills,” said Sarah Ainsworth, senior director of legal and policy at If / When / How: Reproductive Justice Advocate.
She added that “it is unclear whether Texas law can be used to prosecute anyone who sends drugs to Texas from anywhere else.”
HOW MANY WOMEN GO TO A STATISTICS CLINIC FOR ABORTION?
Abortion clinics from the states surrounding Texas have reported a sharp increase in the number of patients from Texas since the new law went into effect, so much so that residents of those states are forced to seek abortion elsewhere.
One clue comes from a research letter published in JAMA that looks at what happened when Republican Gov. Greg Abbott nearly banned abortions for about a month in the early stages of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic.
Curry White, an associate professor at the University of Texas at Austin who manages a Texas policy evaluation project that studies the impact of reproductive health policies in Texas, said the study found that during that time the number of women leaving the state rose to about 950 compared to about 160 before.
Planned Parenthood said on Thursday that from September to December last year, there was a nearly 800 percent increase in the number of abortion patients from Texas in Texas. He declined to report the true number of patients who made up this increase.
HOW MANY PEOPLE LIKE ABORTION SHOULD GIVE BIRTH?
This is also unclear. Comparing the usual number of births in Texas with the number of births this year could end up shedding light.
“I think it’s a big unknown,” White said, “and we won’t know about it for a while.”
WHAT DO THE NUMBERS SAY ABOUT THE FUTURE?
In a ruling expected later this year, the U.S. Supreme Court has demonstrated its willingness to weaken or overturn Rowe’s landmark ruling against Wade, which guarantees the right to abortion, and more than 20 states already have laws banning or severely restricting abortion if revoked.
Restrictions or bans in the states surrounding Texas could mean residents will have to travel even further.
“Perhaps Texas is just a taste of what will happen,” said Rachel K. Jones, chief researcher at the Gutmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion rights.
Meanwhile, anti-abortion groups in Texas are celebrating lives that they say were saved under Texas law, and expect Rowe v. Wade to be repealed.
“Our impact is just beginning,” said Kimberlyn Schwartz, a spokeswoman for Texas Right to Life.