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Hispanic women affected most by Texas Abortion ban, UH study shows

Len Duenas/The Cougar

In years since Texas’s near-total abortion ban came into effect, the state continues to face its impact.

The 2021 abortion ban in Texas affected Hispanic women the most, a recent study by the Institute for Research on Women, Gender & Sexuality at UH found. Hispanic women in Texas and Harris County saw a large increase in birth and fertility rates in 2022 than women from other backgrounds.

In Texas, data from October 2023 suggests about 13,503 additional births in 2022 occurred among Hispanic women between the ages of 15 to 44.

“The results don’t signal that individuals of other groups are unaffected by the abortion ban, but they indicate that Hispanic women as a group are facing more challenges in accessing reproductive care, including both contraception and abortion,” said Elizabeth Gregory, IRWGS director in a press release. 

The study suggests that while the abortion ban affected individuals of other groups as well, the effect was more prominent among Hispanic women, who faced more challenges in accessing reproductive care.

“That doesn’t mean that individuals in non-Hispanic groups were not also strongly affected by the ban, but summaries most clearly document where there is evidence of notable change in group fertility rates, either in a shift in direction or in the pace of rise or decline,” according to the study.

The study found that while the overall state fertility rate grew by 2%, however, there is approximately a 5.1% increase among Hispanic women and a 0.9% increase among non-Hispanic. The fertility rates among Hispanic women 25 and older rose by 8% in Texas and 8.5% overall.

Human development and family sciences junior Ashley Cardona said the culturally Hispanic women tend to have bigger families and many pregnancies throughout their life and many lack the awareness for proper birth control, something that is needed.

“A lot of these women are also low income. Many low-income families tend to have larger families because they’re less knowledgeable on these topics of birth control financing,” she said. “I think there should be more awareness on how to prevent it instead of them just signing it off and moving forward from that.”

Travel to access abortion were also hurdles that many individuals could not face due to various different reasons.

“Travel to access abortion in other states requires money, time off work and in many cases childcare. The need to care for children already at home might be a key factor in the rising birth rates among women 25 and older,” Gregory said.

The study also found that in reverse to the state trend of steady teen birth decline since 2007, there is a slight increase, approximately 0.39%, among Texas teens. The 2022 teen fertility continued to rise slightly among Hispanic, Black and Asian teens and declined among white teens.

A look at Abortion restrictions

In 2021, the Texas Legislature passed SB 8, also known as the Heartbeat Act, that banned abortion in the state after the fetus’s cardiac activity was detected, usually between four to six weeks of the pregnancy.

In 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the constitutional right for an individual to get an abortion with their judgment in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. This cleared the way for Texas’s 2021 “trigger” law to take effect that banned almost all abortions.

The trigger law increased civil and criminal penalties for individuals who have an abortion in the state. This law increases the penalty for performing an abortion up till life in prison, however it specifically exempts the pregnant individual from prosecution. The attorney general “shall” bring a lawsuit to seek a civil penalty for not less than $100,000 per abortion performed, according to the trigger law.

The trigger law has next to no expectations for emergency pregnancies A Texas Supreme Court case seeks to narrow the scope for “medical emergency” exceptions under the state’s abortion bans.

The data for the study draws from the CDC fertility analysis made public in Oct. 2023.

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