JAMA study on Texas infant deaths wrongfully contextualized by pro-abortion rhetoric

by ian

The Journal for the American Medical Association released a study this week that has many Americans talking.

On Monday of this week, JAMA released an investigative report titled “Infant Deaths After Texas’ 2021 Ban on Abortion in Early Pregnancy.” The prevailing question asked by the study was how the abortion ban in Texas impacted “infant mortality in 2022.”

According to an abstract report on their findings, the researchers say that this ban “was associated with unexpected increases in infant and neonatal mortality in 2022.”

Breaking down the data further, JAMA says that there were 10,351 infant deaths in Texas from 2018 to 2022. Considering the law took effect in September of 2021, data right before and right after that period was crucial to the study.

Looking at the monthly rate of infant mortality, JAMA found that some months in 2022 showed “significantly greater-than-expected counts” of infant deaths. The overall rate for that year is roughly 5.75 per 1,000 births.

As for why there was an increase in this rate, JAMA attributes it mostly to a rise in reported congenital anomalies – or birth defects. Such anomalies are the leading causes of infant death nationwide, according to the CDC.

JAMA says that the results of this report “suggest that restrictive abortion policies may have important unintended consequences in terms of trauma to families and medical cost as a result of increases in infant mortality.”

The wording of this report certainly seems to support pro-abortion thinking and policies – and many were quick to seize on the opportunity.  However, there lies within this argument a problem. JAMA’s investigation is certainly eye-opening and provoking, but the media that shared the data have taken it wildly out of context.

For example: JAMA’s investigation does not count performed abortions as part of their infant death count – and when you do count abortions, the data changes rather dramatically. JAMA counted over 10,350 infant deaths in Texas between 2018 and 2022.

This is certainly a lot, but it is woefully shy of the number of abortions performed within that same time. Up until the Heartbeat Bill was enacted in the state, upwards of 55,000 Texans obtained abortions yearly.

So, if we were to count abortions in the state from 2018 to 2021, there were roughly 215,000 procedures performed. After the Heartbeat bill was enacted, data shows that around five abortions have been performed per month.

Furthermore, the reason that JAMA is reporting an increase in infant congenital anomalies is because there are now thousands more babies being born in the Lone Star State each year.

This is highlighted well by Dr. Michael New, an assistant professor at the Busch School of Business at The Catholic University of America and an associate scholar at the Charlotte Lozier Institute.

According to a report he did for LifeNews,

…the Texas Heartbeat Act is not causing an increase in congenital conditions. Instead, it is preventing unborn children from being aborted because of their medical condition. Many children in these circumstances were tragically dying before the Texas Heartbeat Act. However, since they were aborted, they were not counted as infant deaths.

Overall, this article is the latest example of the politicization of public-health research.