Study: Texas fertility rate rose after ‘Heartbeat Act’

Ultrasound heartbeat Credit liseykina Shutterstock CNA Credit: liseykina/Shutterstock

The fertility rate in Texas rose by a statistically significant amount in the wake of the state’s pro-life laws, a University of Houston study has found. 

Texas, which prohibits abortion except in the case of medical emergencies, was among the numerous states with “trigger laws” in place that went into effect upon the Supreme Court’s repeal of Roe v. Wade in June 2022. The state also enacted a “heartbeat” law that went into effect in 2021 and survived numerous legal challenges before Roe’s repeal. The law effectively prohibited abortion after six weeks of gestation.

A study out of the University of Houston’s Institute for Research on Women, Gender, and Sexuality found this month that the state’s fertility rate rose markedly after the heartbeat ban went into effect. 

The “2022 overall fertility rate rose 2% in Texas” after the heartbeat bill, the researchers said in their study, released this month. The study used CDC data on 2022 birth rates in the state. 

The demographics of the fertility spike were lopsided, the researchers noted. Fertility rates rose “most markedly among Hispanic women and specifically among Hispanic women 25-44 years old, who saw aggregated fertility rate rises of 8.0% and 8.5%, respectively.” 

The birth rate for women 15-19 years old also rose for the first time in 15 years, they said, by about 0.39%.

The rise in the overall rate of fertility was the first observed in Texas since 2014, the study said. They noted that researchers from Johns Hopkins University directly connected the heartbeat bill to an increase of nearly 10,000 births in the state.

Though broad post-Roe fertility data are presently unavailable, the researchers pointed out that the heartbeat bill’s effects “provide an initial sense of what may follow in other states with bans, post Dobbs.”

Other researchers, they noted, have already predicted “a likely 5.1% rise in the overall fertility rate in the state” due to the effects of the state’s total abortion ban in the wake of Roe’s repeal. 

Other data have indicated a notable drop in abortions in the U.S. since Roe’s repeal in June 2022, which brought an end to nearly five decades of federalized abortion rights in the United States. 

The Society of Family Planning found in October 2022 that there were 5,270 fewer abortions in July of that year and 5,400 fewer in August after the Supreme Court’s June 24 ruling on Roe. 

A November 2023 study published by the IZA Institute for Labor Economics, meanwhile, found that following Roe’s repeal, “states with abortion bans experienced an average increase in births of 2.3% relative to states where abortion was not restricted.”

Texas ranked in the top 20 most pro-life states in Americans United for Life’s 2023 “Life List” in December. 

Pro-life activists in Texas held a state-level march for life in Austin last week, drawing what was reported to be a crowd of several thousand pro-life demonstrators to the state Legislature. 

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