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Abortions decreased dramatically in Texas in the months after SB 8, study shows

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Patricia Lim
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Patricia Lim/KUT
Hundreds of demonstrators rally after the Supreme Court’s drafted opinion to overturn Roe v. Wade is leaked on May 14, 2022, at the Texas State Capitol Building in Austin.

A new study from UT Austin shows the number of abortions performed in Texas dropped dramatically in the months following Senate Bill 8.

A new study from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) at the University of Texas at Austin showed abortions decreased more than 30% in the six months after Texas Senate Bill 8 went into effect in September 2021.

Kari White, the lead investigator for TxPEP and an associate sociology professor at UT Austin, says she had seen some of these patterns before, but she was surprised how many more Texans were traveling outside of the state for services after Senate Bill 8 went into effect.

“That really speaks to how disruptive the ban on early abortion really was,” White said.

The study looked at 50 abortion providers, both in Texas and in neighboring states including Louisiana and Oklahoma, to compare data over time.

White says they found that Texans traveling for abortion services increased wait times and strained providers.

“As Texans were moving into Oklahoma, people in Oklahoma were finding it difficult to get care, so they were seeking care in other places,” she said. “There really is a domino effect.”

White said she and other researchers found that the number of people obtaining abortions was the lowest in the first month after SB 8 and is most likely decreasing now that abortion access is not federally protected.

When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade this summer, Texas implemented a near-total ban on abortion. States like Louisiana and Oklahoma, where Texans traveled to find abortion care earlier this year, followed suit. White says people have to travel to places like New Mexico and Colorado now.

“This is putting abortion care even further out of reach,” she said. “For a lot of people living in some of these major metropolitan areas of Texas, the nearest clinic is at least 300 miles, sometimes 600 miles, one-way.”

White hopes people consider the impact of such legislation as other states decide on the future of abortion access.

“What we can see from this data is that placing those kinds of restrictions on essential reproductive health care is certainly not going to prevent people from needing abortion care, and that many people are going to pursue other ways to try to get that care,” she said.

She says TxPEP is now investigating the resources people need to access abortion outside of Texas, in addition to services and support they need when they get home or decide to continue their pregnancy because they’re unable to travel.

Got a tip? Email Elena Rivera at erivera@kera.org. You can follow Elena on Twitter @elenaiswriting.

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Elena Rivera is the health reporter at KERA. Before moving to Dallas, Elena covered health in Southern Colorado for KRCC and Colorado Public Radio. Her stories covered pandemic mental health support, rural community health access issues and vaccine equity across the region.