Last week, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission released abortion data for 2018 and 2019. The new data should concern pro-lifers, as they indicate that the incidence of abortion in Texas increased in both years. Between 2017 and 2019, the abortion rate in the Lone Star State increased by approximately 5 percent. During the same period, the incidence of abortion increased across nearly every racial and age category in the state. The data are broadly consistent with new data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), which showed a slight increase in the U.S. abortion rate between 2017 and 2018.
It is difficult to determine exactly why the abortion rate in Texas increased after a consistent long-term decline lasting more than 30 years. One possible explanation is that has become easier for Texas women to obtain chemical abortions early in pregnancy. In 2016, Texas was one of three states to require that physicians administering chemical-abortion drugs follow the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) label. However, in 2016 the FDA updated the labeling for the abortion drug Mifeprex, allowing chemical abortions to be obtained later in pregnancy, with fewer visits to the physician’s office. It seemed to make a difference: Between 2017 and 2019, the number of chemical abortions obtained by Texas women increased by about 32 percent.
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One bright spot in the new data is that the abortion rate among minors in Texas has continued to decline. Overall, the rate of abortions among minors in the state fell by more than 3 percent between 2017 and 2019, and since 2010 it has fallen by a whopping 64 percent. This information is significant because in 2010, Texas removed Planned Parenthood from the state’s family planning program. Public-health professionals criticized this decision sharply, claiming that the rate of teen pregnancy would skyrocket. To the contrary, the significant long-term decline in both the minor birth rate and abortion rate demonstrates that positive public-health trends can continue without requiring taxpayers to fork over millions of dollars to Planned Parenthood.
There are plenty of reasons for Texas pro-lifers to remain hopeful. During the past 20 years, Texas has been a national leader in enacting laws protective of preborn children. Since 2000, a pro-life parental-consent law, an informed-consent law, and a 20-week abortion ban have all gone into effect in the state. The Texas state legislature has increased funding for the state “Alternatives to Abortion” program, which provides millions of dollars annually to assist state pregnancy help centers. These efforts have paid off: According to Guttmacher Institute data, the state abortion rate has fallen by almost 70 percent between 1981 and 2017.
Even so, these new data show that some of this long-term progress may undone by the increased availability of chemical abortions. As always, pro-lifers would do well to be diligent.
LifeNews Note: Michael J. New is an Associate Professor of Economics at Ave Maria University and an Associate Scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute. He is a former political science professor at the University of Michigan–Dearborn and holds a Ph.D. from Stanford University. He is a fellow at Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey.