Claims made about how the Texas Heartbeat Act greatly decreased the number of abortions in the state were an exaggeration, according to new studies, reports say.
The Texas Heartbeat Act or Senate Bill 8 that was introduced on March 11, 2021, signed into law on May 19 and then went into effect on September 1 that same year is one of the most restrictive abortion bans in the coutry. The law prohibits abortions as soon as a fetal heartbeat is detected, about six weeks into a pregnancy during which a women is often unaware that she is carrying a child. It also empowers citizens to enact the law. Initially, it was estimated that the Texas Heartbeat Act decreased the rate of abortions by up to 60%, but new studies have proven otherwise.
According to The Blaze, new studies suggest that abortions in Texas fell by as little as 10% because women are now resorting to traveling out of state for clinical or surgical abortions or opting to seek abortiacients online.
The New York Times reported that two teams of researchers from the University of Texas in Austin counted how many women were seeking abortions by purchasing abortion pills online or traveling outside of the state to those that still allow abortions beyond six weeks. Researchers found that even though the Texas Heartbeat Act prohibited abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected at about six weeks of pregnancy, the restrictions reduced abortions by a lot less than initially estimated.
One study found that on average, there were 1,391 women who traveled to one of seven nearby states for an abortion every month between September 2021, when the Texas Heartbeat Act was enacted, and the end of the year. The researchers noted that the figure was 12 times the average number of Texas women who traveled out of state to get an abortion before the law was passed.
Women are now traveling to nearby New Mexico, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Kansas, Mississippi and Colorado to seek abortions. Among those who travel out of Texas to get an abortion, 45% of women traveled to Oklahoma, while 27% headed for New Mexico. Among those seven states, there are 44 open abortion clinics, but only visits to 34 of the clinics were counted in the study. This means that it's highly likely that the number of women from Texas who traveled out of the state to get an abortion is even higher.
"The law has not done anything to change people's need for abortion care; it has shifted where people are getting their abortion," lead researcher Kari White said in a statement to the NYT, admitting that she waqs actually surprised that the Texas Heartbeat Act did not prevent more abortions. "he numbers are way bigger than we expected. It's pretty astounding."
Statistics also showed that in addition to those who sought abortions out of state, an average of 1,000 women in Texas also ordered abortion pills from Aid Access every month. Aid Access is a nonprofit services that offers telemedicine abortions to women in the U.S. from doctors in Europe or pharmacists in India. Researchers found that this number is three times that of the average number of people who ordered abortion pills before the Texas Heartbeat Act was enacted, a second study that was published in JAMA Network Open revealed.
Researchers found that orders for abortion pills increased from just 11 per day to 138 per day after the abortion ban went into effect. It has since dropped to 30 per day. Study author Abigail R.A. Aiken concluded, "The law is semi-effective; it will not stop all abortions.