Health & Science

The new abortion law has forced about 1,400 people to leave Texas each month for the procedure

The law, known as Senate Bill 8, bans the procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy — often before many people realize they’re pregnant. Abortions in Texas fell by half in September compared to the year before.

Thousands of Texans got abortions out of state in the four months after Texas' strict abortion law went into effect Sept. 1, new research from the Texas Policy Evaluation Project (TxPEP) at UT Austin finds.

The law, known as Senate Bill 8, bans the procedure as early as six weeks into a pregnancy — often before many people realize they’re pregnant. Abortions in Texas fell by half in September compared to the year before.

SB 8 has been in place despite violating Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion in the U.S. As a result, Texas has had the most restrictive ban on the procedure in the country since the law went into effect.

Kari White, an associate professor at UT Austin and the lead investigator at TxPEP, said the law “has done nothing to change people's need for abortion care" in Texas.

"What it has done is dramatically change how people are obtaining care and the lengths to which they are going to obtain that care," she said.

Researchers looked into Texas residents who received the procedure between Aug. 1 and Dec. 31 at 34 of the 44 open facilities in Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Oklahoma. In August, the month before SB 8 went into effect, they found 235 Texas residents got an abortion in one of these out-of-state clinics.

"Between September and December 2021, an average of 1,391 Texans per month obtained abortions at these out-of-state facilities, with monthly totals ranging from 1,330 to 1,485," researchers wrote. Most went to Oklahoma or New Mexico.

Because they were unable to get data from about 10 facilities operating in those states, the figures are an undercount, researchers said. The data also doesn't include abortions administered to Texans in other U.S. states.

White said her team interviewed about 65 people who went out of state for an abortion and heard "over and over" how difficult it was to get an appointment.

"They had to overcome so many obstacles: finding out that they were ineligible for services in Texas,” White said, then “calling numerous clinics — six or 10 — in other states to try to find a place that had an appointment."

White said many of those states were overrun with Texas patients. Some also had their own restrictions on the procedure, she said, requiring a waiting period and multiple visits.

Traveling comes with an economic cost for many of these Texans, she said.

"They are delaying their bills, they are taking out loans, borrowing money from families, borrowing cars because their car isn't reliable," she said. "[They are] not able to buy food for their families in order to be able to cover the cost of their travel and getting out of state."

White said SB 8 has led more Texans to seek abortions out-of-state than during any other restriction on the procedure enacted in Texas so far.

"This is far greater than the number of Texans who obtained abortion care out of state when about half of Texas facilities closed following previous abortion restrictions in 2013 and 2014," she said. "And this number is even greater than the number of Texans who traveled out of state in spring of 2020 when Gov. Abbott issued an executive order that was interpreted as prohibiting most abortions in state at the onset of the coronavirus pandemic."

Subscribe to Today in Houston

Fill out the form below to subscribe our new daily editorial newsletter from the HPM Newsroom.

* required