Ars Technica, by Beth Mole, July 21, 2023
Deaths of babies born in Texas increased 11.5 percent in 2022, the year after the state banned abortion after six weeks, a period before most women know they are pregnant.
In 2022, some 2,200 infants died, according to data obtained by CNN through a public information request. That is 227 more deaths than the state saw in the previous year, before the restrictive law went into effect.
Infant deaths due to severe genetic and birth defects rose 21.6 percent.
The overall trend of more babies dying in the Lone Star State reverses a nearly 10-year decline in infant deaths there, CNN noted. Between 2014 and 2021, infant deaths in Texas had fallen nearly 15 percent.
The new grim statistics are only expected to worsen. Abortion bans and restrictions are known to increase infant deaths, maternal deaths, and maternal suffering. And the US already has the worst maternal and infant mortality rates of any other high-income country in the world.
In 2020, the maternal mortality rate overall in the US was 24 deaths per 100,000 live births, which is more than three times the rate in most other high-income countries, according to an analysis by The Commonwealth Fund. But for Black Americans, the rate is far higher—a staggering 55 per 100,000. Across the border in Canada, the rate is 8 per 100,000, and the UK sits at 6.5 per 100,000. Infant deaths in the US were also the highest of high-income countries in 2020, at 5.4 per 1,000 live births, while the average was 4.1. In Canada, the rate was 4.5 per 1,000, and in the UK, it was 3.6 per 1,000.
“We all knew the infant mortality rate would go up because many of these terminations were for pregnancies that don’t turn into healthy normal kids,” Dr. Erika Werner, the chair of obstetrics and gynecology at Tufts Medical Center, told CNN. “It’s exactly what we all were concerned about.”
While other high-income countries have seen improvements in infant and maternal mortality rates in recent years, the US has seen declining trends. And the abortion bans and restrictions sweeping conservative states are expected to worsen the situation. Even in Texas, the declines may yet worsen in the current year because of more restrictions on abortion since 2022 began. When the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to abortion in June of that year, a trigger law in the state banned abortion at all stages except in the case of medical emergencies, which are undefined.
Despite the existing body of data on the dangers of abortion restrictions and bans, lawmakers and officials in Texas this week are hearing the lived experiences of pregnant people under the bans. A group of 13 women and two doctors are suing the state, claiming that the new laws are unclear and harmful.
Samantha Casiano took the stand Wednesday to speak about her infant’s death. Casiano learned at 20 weeks into the pregnancy (when anatomical scans are performed) that her fetus was not viable due to anencephaly, a condition in which the brain and skull do not fully form. Due to Texas’ ban, she was forced to carry the pregnancy and give birth to a baby girl, whom she named Halo.
Casiano wept and vomited on the stand as she described the experience, including holding Halo in her arms and watching her slowly die, which occurred four hours after the birth. “She was gasping for air,” Casiano said. “I just kept telling myself and my baby that I’m so sorry that this has happened to you. I felt so bad. She had no mercy. There was no mercy there for her.”
Another Texas woman, Amanda Zurawski, testified about her experience of beginning to have a miscarriage at 18 weeks into a long-sought pregnancy, dooming the fetus. But due to the state’s laws, she was not able to obtain standard medical care—a prompt procedural abortion that would hasten the inevitable termination of the pregnancy to prevent complications—because the fetus still had detectable electrical pulses from cardiac cells. (Embryonic cardiac activity begins to be detectable at around week four of pregnancy, but an actual fetal heart and heartbeat do not fully develop until weeks 17 to 20). As Zurawski waited for fetal cardiac activity to fade, she developed life-threatening sepsis and spent three days in the intensive care unit. The delay in care also caused the development of scar tissue, which may prevent her from having children.
Major medical and health organization support and advocate for access to abortion, including the World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. They consider abortion “evidence-based” and “essential” health care and have described the current US bans and restrictions as an “assault” on safe medical practice.
So far, 14 states have banned most abortions, one state has a six-week ban, six states have imposed bans between 12 to 18 weeks, and five additional states have enacted bans that have been blocked, at least temporarily, by courts.
Advocates point to the following organizations that could use donations now:
- Texas Equal Access Fund provides funds and emotional support to people seeking abortion care.
- Lilith Fund is the oldest abortion fund in the state, serving patients in central and south Texas.
- Frontera Fund provides financial assistance, lodging, and transportation for patients living in the Rio Grande Valley or who have procedures scheduled at Whole Women’s Health in McAllen, Texas.
- Clinic Access Support Network provides transportation, lodging, childcare assistance, compassionate care, and occasional procedure funding to patients in Houston, Texas.
- The Afiya Center was founded by Black women in North Texas to promote the reproductive health of Black women and girls. The center’s Support Your Sistah Fund provides practical help to abortion patients.
- Fund Texas Choice helps with travel and accommodation costs for Texas residents seeking abortion care in- and out-of-state.
- The Bridge Collective provides information, transportation, accommodation, and abortion doula services.
- Buckle Bunnies Fund mobilizes across Texas to help secure funding for people seeking care. You can Venmo @Buckle-Bunnies, CashApp $BuckleBunniesFund, or shop on their website to support this fund.
- West Fund is a community organization working to create universal abortion accessibility. It provides financial assistance to patients in Texas, Southern New Mexico, and Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, who are seeking procedures in El Paso, Texas, or New Mexico.
- Jane’s Due Process provides reproductive health resources, legal aid, and case management to help young Texans navigate parental consent laws and confidentially access abortion and birth control.
- The Stigma Relief Fund provides financial help to Whole Woman’s Health patients.
This list was compiled by Bustle on September 9, 2021. It may contain outdated information.