Approximately 64,500 women have had rape related pregnancies in the 14 states where abortion is illegal since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, according to a study published in the JAMA Internal Medicine journal last week.
Texas accounts for a vast number of these pregnancies. The study’s authors estimate that 26,313 Texas women have been impregnated after rape since the state’s abortion ban went into effect on July 1, 2022 – by far the largest number in any of the 14 states and five times more than Missouri, which has the next highest number.
The authors of the study – UT professor Kari White, along with researchers Samuel Dickman and David Himmelstein – combined reports and projections from a variety of sources, including the Centers for Disease Control, to make the projections. White told us that the study is the first of its kind that she’s seen and though it doesn’t break down the numbers demographically, there is other research available to predict which groups suffer more from rape.
“We know from the Centers for Disease Control data that a lot of folks who experience sexual assault are living on lower income, are people of color, and, notably, this really happens to people at a young age in their life,” White said. “Based on the CDC report, most people were under the age of 25 the first time that they have been raped. So we’re really talking about a young population.”
White noted that the study does not predict how many of those who get pregnant from rape end up getting an abortion. But she said that CDC data shows that victims of rape are also subject to family violence and may find it very difficult, for a variety of reasons, to access a legal abortion. “That can really lead them to feel trapped and it makes it even more difficult for them to get through their healing and their recovery process from this really profound, terrible experience,” White said.
Five of the 14 states that outlaw abortion have exceptions for those who were impregnated through rape or incest (Texas does not), but the researchers found that these exceptions are, in practical terms, meaningless – in each of these states very few legal abortions had been performed.
“These states usually have requirements that people have to report the rape to local authorities,” White said. “And again, the circumstances under which they were assaulted – being in an intimate partner relationship or being victimized by a family member – that makes people reluctant to report to authorities in those cases. Also, in a lot of these states the facilities that provide abortion have closed, so there is no place really for them to go to get the services.”
White also pointed out that in reporting the results of the study the media have focused on the number of rapes resulting in pregnancies but not the much larger number of total rapes that researchers found had occurred in the 14 states in total – 519,000 since the end of Roe. “Rape and sexual violence are common experiences in people’s lives,” White said. “And those folks, too, may really worry about whether or not they will be pregnant and what to do about it. They’ll also be struggling with a lot of the psychological trauma from that experience. So I don’t think we should lose sight of that either – how unfortunately common it is in the United States for people to have experienced sexual violence.”
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