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Abortions in Texas fell 60% in first month under new limits

FILE - Protesters walk along Jackson St. during the North Texas March for Life, celebrating the passage and court rulings upholding the Texas law known as Senate Bill 8, on Saturday, Jan. 15, 2022, in Dallas. (Shafkat Anowar/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) – Abortions in Texas fell by 60 percent in the first month under the state’s law banning the procedure after a heartbeat can be detected, new figures show.

The nearly 2,200 abortions reported by Texas providers in September came after the law took effect. The figures were released this month by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission.

In August, there had been more than 5,400 abortions statewide. State health officials said more data will be released on a monthly basis.

The numbers offer a fuller picture of the sharp drop in patients that Texas doctors have described in their clinics over the past five months, during which time courts have repeatedly allowed the rule to stay in place.

“Since the passing of the Texas Heartbeat Act in 2021, we have seen at least two encouraging trends in the Lone Star State:” said Tony Wolfe, associate executive director of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, in written comments to Baptist Press. “(1) numbers of consultations with expectant mothers at Texas pro-life clinics are trending upward, and (2) numbers of abortive procedures in Texas are trending downward. One clinic in an urban area recently reported a 48% increase in consultations. Praise the Lord!”

Katie Frugé, director of the Center for Cultural Engagement & the Christian Life Commission of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, said Texas Baptists “celebrate the progress of the pro-life movement in Texas but know there is still work to be done.”

“We are committed to helping alleviate root issues that lead some to abortion,” she told Baptist Press, “and believe the local church can play a crucial and strategic role to meet the needs of women and families in difficult situations. We continue our vital work with legislators and local churches to help protect, defend, and provide for the most vulnerable in our communities and remain committed to working toward abortion ending not only because of legal bans but because it is no longer necessary or desirable.”

Planned Parenthood issued a statement calling the numbers “the very beginning of the devastating impact” of the law.

The Texas law conflicts with other U.S. Supreme Court rulings that prevent a state from banning abortion early in pregnancy. But it was written in a way that has essentially outmaneuvered those precedents. The fate of the law as well as similar laws in other states awaits a decision from the U.S. Supreme Court. In December, oral arguments were heard in a Mississippi law, Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, that bans abortion after 15 weeks’ gestation. The Dobbs decision, expected this summer, has the potential to dramatically change the landscape of abortion law in the U.S.

Brent Leatherwood, acting president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, has little concern for the Texas law’s impact on abortionists.

“We should appreciate it when circumstances reveal Planned Parenthood for what it is: an enterprise that preys on vulnerable women and profits from the destruction of life,” Leatherwood told BP. “While saving lives may be ‘devastating’ for their bottom line, we should be thankful that more children are taking their first breath in Texas. We can only hope the same will be true once the Supreme Court renders its decision in Dobbs and a true pro-life legal culture can be established across our nation. We should earnestly pray for that result.”

Under the Texas law, any private citizen is entitled to collect $10,000 or more if they bring a successful lawsuit against someone who performed or helped a woman obtain an abortion after the limit. So far, no one has filed any suits.

Texas abortion providers have acknowledged the law is likely to stay on the books for the foreseeable future.

Since the Texas law took effect, similar measures have been introduced in GOP-controlled statehouses nationwide, but none have passed. Arizona Republicans this month continued moving to outlaw abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy.

If the Supreme Court decides to weaken or reverse Roe v. Wade, as many as 26 states would institute abortion restrictions within a year, according to the Guttmacher Institute, a research organization that supports abortion.

At least 12 states have “trigger bans” on the books, with restrictions that would kick in automatically if the justices overturn or weaken existing law.

From The Associated Press. May not be republished. Baptist Press staff contributed to this report.

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  • Paul J. Weber