Lina Hidalgo criticizes Texas’ abortion ban after study estimates thousands of rape-related pregnancies

More than 26,000 Texas women were estimated to have became pregnant by rape in the 16 months after Texas implemented a total abortion ban, according to a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

AUSTIN, TX - MAY 29: Protesters hold up signs as they march down Congress Ave at a protest outside the Texas state capitol on May 29, 2021 in Austin, Texas. Thousands of protesters came out in response to a new bill outlawing abortions after a fetal heartbeat is detected signed on Wednesday by Texas Governor Greg Abbot. (Photo by Sergio Flores/Getty Images)
Sergio Flores/Getty Images
Protesters hold up signs as they march down Congress Avenue at a protest outside the Texas state capitol on May 29, 2021 in Austin, Texas.

One of the Houston area's top elected officials criticized Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and other state leaders after a recent study published in a peer-reviewed medical journal estimated that more than 26,000 Texas women became pregnant by rape after abortion was banned in the state, which offers no exceptions for cases of rape or incest.

The study, published Wednesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association, examined rape-related pregnancies in the 14 U.S. states that have implemented total abortion bans since a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in 2022 overturned the landmark Roe v. Wade decision from 1973. Texas was estimated to have the most rape-related pregnancies among those states, accounting for about 40% of the total.

"When the Texas legislature passed its abortion ban with no exceptions for rape or incest, Governor Abbott vowed to ‘eliminate all rapists from the streets,'" Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said Thursday night in a statement released by her office. "What our state leaders have done instead is create a public health emergency in communities across Texas, including Harris County."

The study, the findings of which were first reported locally by the Houston Chronicle, used FBI crime reports as well as survey results from the Bureau of Justice Statistics and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers used prior rape-related pregnancy rates to estimate the number of rape survivors who had become pregnant, determining state-level data by factoring in the number of months in which their abortion bans were in effect (16 months in Texas' case).

Dr. Samuel Dickman of Planned Parenthood of Montana, the study's lead author, noted that rapes typically are underreported and that "such highly stigmatized experiences are difficult to measure accurately in surveys."

"Our estimates have limitations," he wrote in the study.

A total of 519,981 estimated rapes were associated with 64,565 pregnancies during the 4- to 18-month period during which abortion bans had been in effect in the 14 states, five of which offer exceptions for rape or incest. An estimated 5,586 rape-related pregnancies occurred in those five states, compared to an estimated 58,979 in the other nine states, the study found.

After the June 2022 Supreme Court ruling, 10 or fewer legal abortions per month occurred in each of the 14 states with abortion bans, according to the study, which says that suggests that "rape exceptions fail to provide reasonable access to abortion for survivors.

"Survivors of rape who become pregnant in states with abortion bans may seek a self-managed abortion or try to travel (often hundreds of miles) to a state where abortion is legal, leaving many without a practical alternative to carrying the pregnancy to term," Dickman also wrote in the study.

Hidalgo, in her statement, indicated that Texas' abortion law should at least make exceptions for rape and incest.

"I know firsthand that surviving rape is one of the most traumatic things a person can experience," she said. "At its core, rape and sexual assault are about taking away a woman's agency. Denying that woman the option of an abortion is cruel and only adds more trauma. We have to change this, and it begins with leaders who prioritize women's wellbeing over politics."