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Did Texas' Pro-Life Law Increase Infant Mortality?

AP Photo/Mariam Zuhaib

A new study from the JAMA network and promoted by the Associated Press claims to prove that Texas' pro-life legislation has caused an increase in infant mortality. You'll be less than surprised, though, to learn that there's far more to the story.

Here's what the study's co-author had to say about the "findings."

“I think these findings make clear the potentially devastating consequences that abortion bans can have,” said co-author Suzanne Bell, a fertility researcher.

As you would imagine, taking the Associated Press' description of the study at face value would be a mistake. So what are some of the actual numbers involved, you might ask? That's where things get very interesting. 

First, let's acknowledge when they begin to count deaths as a result of SB8 going into affect. According to the study, that would be March of 2022. 

Deaths in March 2022 were treated as the first cohort exposed to the Texas’ SB8 abortion policy because these infants (if born full term) were approximately 10 to 14 weeks’ gestation when SB8 went into effect on September 1, 2021. The exposure period was thus March through December 2022.

Alright, so what was the actual data they came up with? It showed an increase in infant mortality of 12.9 percent from 2021 to 2022. The increase between 2022 and 2023 was actually less. That'll become very important momentarily.

Between 2021 and 2022, infant deaths in Texas increased from 1985 to 2240, or 255 additional deaths. This corresponds to a 12.9% increase, whereas the rest of the US experienced a comparatively lower 1.8% increase.

Did you catch that? Their exposure group began in March of 2022, yet the first major (and largest) increase occurred in 2021. Despite that obvious contradiction regarding the supposed correlation between SB8 and infant mortality, this was the study's conclusion.

This study found that Texas’ 2021 ban on abortion in early pregnancy was associated with unexpected increases in infant and neonatal deaths in Texas between 2021 and 2022.

Now, I'm no scientist, but how exactly could a law that had no impact on anyone until March of 2022 (as stated by the study itself) be "associated with an unexpected increase" in infant mortality "between 2021 and 2022?" On its face, that makes no sense at all. I'd go further and say it seems to be purposely misleading, which isn't shocking given the source of the study was John Hopkins University, one of the most liberal campuses in the world. 

But let's say their underlying data is correct, which is not a given. What could have caused a sharp increase in infant mortality in Texas beginning in 2021? Could it be the fact that millions of illegal immigrants have flooded across the border during Biden's presidency? Where do you normally expect infant mortality to be the highest? That would be among the lowest rungs of socio-economic status, and illegal immigrants are essentially at the bottom, with pregnant women likely having had little to no prenatal care prior to crossing the border. 

I'm not claiming that is definitively the reason for the increase, but if we are looking for a correlation with infant mortality, there is far more reason to believe that's the reason than "anti-abortion" laws. At least the timeline matches up, which is more than we can say for the study in question. 

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, an abortion is an infant mortality in all but name only. An abortion kills a child nearly 100 percent of the time. Yet, this study doesn't consider that at all, which again, isn't surprising given the source. I'd be curious to know what the actual mortality rate is when you consider how many abortions have been prevented by SB8, allowing those babies a chance to live.

As to my conclusion about all this, it's that the press and the scientific establishment continue to be shameless partisans. The latter group is doing far more damage, though, because a healthy scientific establishment is important for society. That it's being turned into a tool to push far-left ideology is not only pathetic, but it's dangerous as well. 

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