Texas ‘Heartbeat’ Abortion Law Not Restricting Abortions Like Many Hoped

The Texas law passed last fall that radically limited access to abortions in the state caused the number of abortions performed in clinics to be cut in half. That statistic has been celebrated by pro-life people across the country. But what is the truth about the number of actual abortions happening in the Lone Star state?

The actual decline in abortions in Texas is much smaller than most are aware of because of two main factors: the number of women traveling to clinics in other states and the readily available drugs that can end a pregnancy in the privacy of your home.

What we are seeing in Texas is a foreshadowing of what will happen even if the Supreme Court gives states freedom to restrict abortions in the months ahead. 

The law in Texas prohibits abortion after fetal cardiac acting can be detected, which is typically about six weeks into a pregnancy. It is known as the heartbeat law. After the law was passed, the Texas Policy Evaluation Project reported that clinics in the state performed 50% fewer procedures than they did in the same month in 2020.

But the same research group reported that there were almost 6,000 out-of-state abortions done for Texas residents from September through December. That is 10 times the number during the same period in 2019. That number represents about two-thirds of the decrease in-clinic abortions in Texas, and that number is probably low because it doesn’t include all the accessible clinics outside Texas. 

Compounding this issue is the ease with which women can obtain mifepristone and misoprostol. These are abortion pills from abroad. The Food and Drug Administration has already approved these pills for up to 10 weeks into a pregnancy. And last December, the FDA did away with a requirement that abortion pills be given in person by a professional. So now prescriptions can come through telemedicine and be delivered right to your home. 

So according to a study revealed by The New York Times, abortions in Texas only dropped by approximately 10 percent. The Times refers to a study from two groups of researchers that was done at the University of Texas at Austin. The principal investigator of this study, Kari White, said that the Texas Heartbeat Law “has not done anything to change people’s need for abortion care. It has shifted where people are getting their abortion.”

There are definite risks involved in taking medication to end a pregnancy. The side effects include nausea, diarrhea, fever, and chills. And the bleeding that comes could last for weeks after the abortion occurs. And some of the studies done indicate that some women experience incomplete abortions which can lead to death from infection due to the leftover fetal tissue that was not removed. 

There have been studies that show emergency room visits following taking an abortion pill rising by 507 percent from 2002 to 2015. 

There are some states like South Dakota, Alabama, and Texas that are working on restrictions on mail-order abortion pills. 

Pro-Life advocates still say that any reduction in abortions is a win for them. John Seago, legislative director of Texas Right to Life, said, “There’s no hesitation from our side to declare this a victory for actually protecting pre-born children from elective abortion. We’re realists around here, so the best we can do is incentivize women to have their children.”

What is happening in Texas takes a significant amount of momentum away from the high hopes many have for the Supreme Court to give states leeway in establishing their own abortion restrictions.