In States With Abortion Bans, This Number Stands Out

There were 520K rapes in 14 states, resulting in 64K pregnancies
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 25, 2024 7:21 AM CST
In States With Abortion Bans, 64K Pregnancies From Rape
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Natalia Kuzina)

In September 2021, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott insisted that his state's strict six-week abortion ban was adequate time for women to obtain an abortion, and that he would "eliminate all rapists" in his state, implying that pregnancies from rape in Texas would eventually no longer be an issue. Now, new research shows that, in the 18 months after Roe v. Wade was overturned in June 2022, the Lone Star State claimed about 26,000 pregnancies caused by rape—the most of any state in the nation with a total abortion ban, reports Lone Star Live. In all 14 states with such a ban, there were nearly 520,000 "completed rapes" between July 2022 and January 2024, leading to 64,565 girls and women becoming pregnant, per the study published Wednesday in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal.

Most (91%) of those pregnancies took place in states with abortion bans that provide no exception for rape, including Texas, whose rape-caused pregnancies accounted for about 45% of the country's total, per the study, which used FBI, CDC, and Bureau of Justice Statistics data to arrive at its estimates. Five of the 14 states with total abortion bans do have rape exceptions, but they can be "virtually meaningless," David Himmelstein of Hunter College, one of the study's co-authors, tells NBC News. That's because those clauses often have gestational limits, as well as reporting requirements to police—even though only about 21% of rape victims report their attacks.

The study also noted that, of those patients who became pregnant due to rape, "few (if any) obtained in-state abortions legally, suggesting that rape exceptions fail to provide reasonable access to abortion for survivors." The fate of these girls and women remains unclear. "Whether these survivors of rape had illegal abortions, received medication abortion through the mail, traveled to other states, or carried the child to birth is unknown," the journal's editor's write in a note accompanying the study.

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About 70% of Americans believe abortion should be on the table if a pregnancy is caused by rape, though experts cite other challenges of such exceptions, including victims who don't want to talk about their assault, or delays in acknowledging the pregnancy due to their trauma. "No other health care is reserved only for people who can prove a crime took place," Dr. Sami Heywood of Physicians for Reproductive Health tells CNN. "That's not an ethical way to practice medicine." (More abortion ban stories.)

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