Abortions performed by registered providers in Texas fell 60% in the first month after the state passed the most restrictive abortion law in the United States in decades, new figures show.
Nearly 2,200 abortions were reported by Texas providers in September after a new law went into effect banning the procedure once heart activity is detected, usually around six weeks pregnant and when many are unaware that they are pregnant. The law is without exception in case of rape or incest.
The numbers were released this month by the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. By August, there had been more than 5,400 abortions statewide. State health officials said more data would be released on a monthly basis.
The numbers offer a fuller picture of the steep decline in patient numbers that Texas doctors have described in their clinics over the past five months, a period during which courts have repeatedly allowed restrictions to continue. That left some Texas patients traveling hundreds of miles to clinics in neighboring states or further afield, causing a backlog of appointments in those locations.
People seeking legal abortions traveled to Oklahoma, New Mexico, Colorado, Kansas, Arkansas and Louisiana, according to information from the Dallas Morning News.
The Texas law conflicts with the landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision, Roe v Wade, and other decisions, which prevent a state from banning abortion in early pregnancy, but has been drafted in a way that essentially thwarted those precedents.
Under the law, any private citizen has the right to claim $10,000 or more by bringing a lawsuit against someone who performed or helped a woman obtain an over-the-limit abortion – something opponents have condemned like a bonus. So far, no anti-abortion supporters have filed a complaint.
Texas Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, released a statement saying “the success of the Texas Heartbeat Act is embodied in every child saved.”
Texas abortion providers have acknowledged that the law will likely remain on the books for the foreseeable future.
It comes as the Supreme Court has signaled its willingness to weaken or reverse the Roe v Wade precedent in a ruling expected in June.
Abortion providers in more liberal states, such as California, Illinois and New York, are expanding clinics and bolstering travel assistance to prepare for an influx of patients from conservative states if the Supreme Court of United States terminates or seriously impairs the constitutional right to process.
Associated Press contributed to this report