States with total abortion bans see shocking number of pregnancies caused by rape, study shows

Billings, Montana - A new study estimates that states with total abortion bans have seen nearly 65,000 pregnancies caused by rape.

Researchers estimate 65,000 rape-related pregnancies have occurred in states with total abortion bans
Researchers estimate 65,000 rape-related pregnancies have occurred in states with total abortion bans  © 123rf/otnaydur

Researchers published their shocking study as a research letter in JAMA Internal Medicine.

Using the number of rapes suffered by women in 14 states with total abortion bans, as well as CDC data on the percentage of assaults that result in pregnancies, they arrived at a total estimate of 64,565.

"Sexual assault is incredibly common – I knew that in a general sense," said Dr. Samuel Dickman, an abortion provider in Montana and one of the study authors.

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"But to be confronted with these estimates that are so high in states where there's no meaningful abortion access? It's hard to comprehend."

This shocking figure is an important data point in the healthcare landscape radically changed by the Supreme Court's decision in the Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health case, which overturned the federal protection of abortion rights in June 2022.

Rape survivors more likely to choose abortion than pregnancy

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Abortion advocates marched in front of the White House to mark the anniversary of the 1973 passage of Roe v. Wade.  © ANNA ROSE LAYDEN / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / GETTY IMAGES VIA AFP

The implications of these numbers are stark.

"We do know that those who become pregnant after rape are more likely to choose abortion than to continue their pregnancies," Dr. Rachel Perry, an OBGYN professor at the University of California, Irvine, who was not involved in the study, told NPR.

Per the authors, 91% of the rape-related pregnancies they estimated occurred in states with no rape exception clauses. Texas alone, which has one of the strictest abortion bans in the country, accounted for over 26,000.

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The researchers are well aware that coming up with these kinds of estimates is difficult given the lack of concrete data on sexual assault and pregnancy.

"Nonetheless," they concluded, "the large number of estimated rape-related pregnancies in abortion ban states compared with the 10 or fewer legal abortions per month occurring in each of those states indicates that persons who have been raped and become pregnant cannot access legal abortions in their home state, even in states with rape exceptions."

Since the Supreme Court ruling, 14 states have issued total abortion bans. Though five states with total bans have exceptions for rape-related instances, the procedure is difficult, if not impossible, to receive.

Many of these states require the victim to report the crime to the authorities, and research shows that only 21% of survivors of rape report their sexual assault to the police.

Cover photo: 123rf/otnaydur

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