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Mainstream Media Mislead on a Texas Infant-Mortality Study

by | Jun 25, 2024

By Michael J. New

On Monday the journal JAMA Pediatrics released a study that purportedly showed that the Texas Heartbeat Act led to a sharp increase in infant deaths in 2022.

Unsurprisingly, this study was quickly and uncritically covered by several mainstream-media outlets, including NBC News, CBS News, USA Today, the HillAxios, the GuardianNewsweek, and CNN. Articles touting the study were also tweeted out by pro-abortion governors J. B. Pritzker of Illinois and Gavin Newsom of California

Not surprisingly, there is less here than meets the eye.

According to the study, the Texas infant-mortality rate in 2022 was 5.75 per 1,000 births. This is well within historical norms and is nearly identical to the average infant mortality rate in the Lone Star State between 2007 and 2020. Furthermore, the Texas infant mortality rate in 2022 was only about three percentage points higher than the overall U.S. infant mortality rate. This difference can be likely explained by the fact Texas has an above average poverty rate and higher levels of illegal immigration than other states.

More importantly, any increase in infant mortality needs to be taken in context. One reason why Texas experienced an increase in infant deaths in 2022 is that more infants were born. Overall, in 2022 over 16,000 more children were born in Texas than in 2021. Partly owing to the Texas Heartbeat Act, Texas had the largest birth increase of any state in the country in 2022.

When the infant-mortality rate is considered instead of the total number of infant deaths, a somewhat different picture emerges. Texas experienced an above-average increase but the difference is less dramatic.

Additionally, the JAMA Pediatrics article indicates that the largest increase in infant deaths was due to increases in congenital conditions. However, 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. It should come as no surprise that JAMA Pediatrics chose to release this article on the two-year anniversary of the Dobbs decision.

On Monday, JAMA Pediatrics also published an editorial entitled “Abortion Bans Harm Not Just Pregnant People – They Harm Newborns and Infants Too.” Once again public health journals should prioritize publishing high quality, analytically rigorous research. They should not serve as mouthpieces for supporters of legal abortion.

Editor’s note. This appeared at National Review Online and is reposted with permission.

Categories: State Legislation