Study claiming state’s pro-life law caused infant deaths is ‘meant to mislead’

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[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by Live Action News.]

By Bettina di Fiore
Live Action News

A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) attempts to connect an increase in Texas’ total number of infant mortalities in 2022 to its implementation of SB8, also known as the Texas Heartbeat Act, in 2021. Study authors claim that their “findings suggest that abortion restrictions may have negative spillover effects on infant health.”

Abortion-friendly media outlets reporting on the study have uncritically recycled more or less the same claim. For example, USA Today stated: “[Texas’] near-total ban on abortion appears to have triggered an increase in infant deaths[.]”

But can the inability to kill children in the womb really be responsible for an increase in infant deaths outside the womb? And what does the big picture in Texas actually look like?

Infant Deaths Are Up in Texas … but So Are Births

According to JAMA, there were 255 more infant deaths in Texas in 2022 than there were in 2021. However, the study fails to note that this number is dwarfed by the state’s increase in births during the same period.

According to analysis published by the University of Houston, there were 16,147 more births in Texas in 2022 than there were the previous year. The same report also notes that, while the overall U.S. fertility rate (defined as births per 1,000 women aged 15-44) fell, Texas’ fertility rate “rose in 2022 for the first time since 2014, by 2.0% over 2021[.]” In fact, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), only three states – North Dakota, Nebraska, and South Dakota – can boast 2022 fertility rates higher than that of Texas.

What’s more, when one examines Texas’ infant mortality rate (the number of infant deaths per 1,000 live births) rather than just the raw number of total deaths, a very different picture emerges.

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The CDC reports that Texas’ infant mortality rates in both 2017 and 2014 – namely, 5.85 deaths per 1,000 births – were actually higher than in 2022, in which the rate was 5.72. CDC statistics also show that Texas’ infant mortality rate for 2016 was identical to that of 2022, and 2015’s rate (5.71) was very nearly identical.

Dr. Michael New, who is an assistant professor of practice at the Busch School of Business at the Catholic University of America and a senior associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute, noted that Texas’ infant mortality rate for 2022 was “well within historical norms” and “nearly identical to the average infant mortality rate in the Lone Star State between 2007 and 2020.”

In other words, considered in context, Texas’ infant mortality data reveals that there is actually no controversy here, and certainly no legitimate cause for hysteria or hyperbole.

JAMA’s Statistical Shell Game

According to USA Today, the JAMA study concluded that the increase in infant deaths was “likely due to birth defects or genetic problems that wouldn’t have allowed [the babies] to live.”

In other words, even JAMA admits that the majority of these children would have died prior to the implementation of the Texas Heartbeat Act – the only difference is that before the law went into effect, they would have been violently and intentionally killed while still in the womb, whereas afterward, they were permitted to live out the natural course of their lives.

The key change, from a statistical standpoint, is the manner in which these deaths are reported. Before SB8, they were reported as abortion statistics, but now, they are reported as infant/neonatal deaths.

JAMA’s suggestion that there has been a material and substantial increase in the number of babies dying in Texas – and that Texas’ pro-life law is responsible for that increase – is completely reliant upon a disingenuous statistical shell game.

Better Never to Have Been Born?

Both JAMA and the abortion-friendly media outlets reporting on this study have suggested that it would have been better if these children had been homicide victims subjected to violent abortion procedures rather than be permitted to experience natural deaths after birth.

The study states that its “results suggest that restrictive abortion policies may have important unintended consequences in terms of trauma to families and medical cost[.]” Study author Alison Gemmill similarly told USA Today that the natural deaths of these children after their births “probably caused a lot of unnecessary trauma to families.”

Not only do these statements imply that the value of these children’s lives can be measured in mere dollars and cents, but their conjecture regarding trauma is not borne out by actual research. Studies have shown that women who abort children with fetal anomalies and/or prenatal disability diagnoses are at increased risk for post-traumatic stress disorder and emotional trauma than women who carry these pregnancies to term.

So in reality, contrary to what study authors claim, allowing children in the womb who have been diagnosed with disabilities to be born not only spares the children themselves the trauma and violence of a death by abortion, but spares their mothers significant trauma, as well.

Furthermore, discrimination against the disabled – particularly when that discrimination takes the form of homicide – can never be morally justified. And pro-lifers should not allow abortion advocates to make them feel guilty for opposing such discrimination.

Rather, we should adopt the bold attitude of Amy O’Donnell, spokesperson for Texas Alliance for Life, who told USA Today: “We don’t apologize for the fact that we don’t support discrimination against children facing disabilities or fatal diagnoses in or out of the womb. And that’s the line that we just believe should not be crossed.”

[Editor’s note: This story originally was published by Live Action News.]


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