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States With Abortion Bans Saw Over 65k Rape-Related Pregnancies After “Dobbs”

The same states saw only 10 or fewer legal abortions per month, despite supposed exceptions to bans.

Pro-choice supporters rally for reproductive rights at the Texas Capitol on May 14, 2022, in Austin, Texas.

Nearly 65,000 rape-related pregnancies occurred in states with total or near-total abortion bans post-Dobbs v. Jackson, new research finds, while those same states saw only a handful of legal abortions performed on average per month.

According to research published online in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) on Wednesday, there were an estimated 64,565 pregnancies related to rape during the periods when abortion bans were active across the 14 states with total or near total bans between July 2022 and the beginning of this year.

Researchers estimate that 5,586 of these pregnancies occurred in states whose bans technically — though often not in practice — have exceptions for rape, while 58,979 happened in states without exceptions. In Texas alone, where there are no exceptions except for medical emergencies — which, again, are often not granted in practice — there were 26,313 rape-related pregnancies in this period.

Meanwhile, the study found that these same states saw 10 or fewer legal abortions performed monthly in these states while bans were active, undercutting the idea that exceptions to abortion bans actually protect people who are victims of sexual assault in practice.

“Like many exceptions written into abortion bans, an exception for rape victims may appear to be a reasonable solution but in practice can create more trauma and danger for patients who have already experienced a traumatic event,” Sami Heywood, an Illinois OB-GYN and Physicians for Reproductive Health fellow, who was not involved in the research, told CNN.

“No other health care is reserved only for people who can prove a crime took place. That’s not an ethical way to practice medicine. It is cruel to force people who have already been victimized to jump through legal and logistical barriers that cause further harm.”

Samuel Dickman, the study’s lead author, also emphasized this point in a statement. “Politicians use the idea of abortion exceptions to provide political cover, but those so-called exceptions don’t actually help pregnant survivors get the care they need,” Dickman said.

Other studies have similarly found that there was a decrease of over 32,000 abortions across the country in the six months directly following Dobbs, meaning that huge swaths of people have had to endure pregnancies that they likely otherwise would not have had to endure. Research published earlier this month by the IZA Institute of Labor Economics found that states with total abortion bans saw an increase of 2.3 percent in births versus states with fewer restrictions in the first six months of 2023, or an increase of about 32,000 births.

The people who had to carry pregnancies related to rape may have travelled to other states to obtain abortions, or otherwise were likely forced to carry the fetus of their rapist until they miscarried or gave birth.

Experts say that the number of people who are forced to endure a pregnancy, rape-related or otherwise, that they normally would have terminated will only increase as abortion bans go on.

Due to a widespread culture of suppressing rape and sexual assault victims, JAMA editors pointed out in a note published alongside the research that abortion bans make it even more difficult for survivors to recover and seek care.

“Restricting abortion access to survivors of rape can have particularly devastating consequences. While some states with very limited access to abortion allow an exception for rape, the very nature of rape may make it difficult for survivors of rape to take advantage of these exceptions,” the editors wrote. “Many of these states require that the rape be reported to law enforcement, which most survivors of rape are reluctant to do, and even when reported, the process often markedly slows the timing of early abortion.”

“As physicians, we do not see abortion as a political, religious, or legal issue. Rather we see access to safe abortions as a necessary part of reproductive health services to protect the physical and mental well-being of patients,” they continued. “The best solution to this problem is a national law protecting the right of all people to choose to terminate pregnancy.”

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