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Study looks at rape-related pregnancies in abortion ban states

Researchers estimate that there have been 64,565 pregnancies related to rape in 14 U.S. states where there are abortion bans in place.
Participants in an anti-abortion rally
Posted at 10:50 PM, Jan 24, 2024

Multiple doctors have released data in the form of a research letter in which they concluded that thousands of rape-related pregnancies have happened in just the 14 U.S. states that have total abortion bans. 

In the letter, published on Wednesday by the JAMA Network, authors Dr. Samuel Dickman, Dr. Kari White and Dr. David Himmelstein said they found that rape was related to 64, 565 pregnancies across 14 U.S. states that had implemented total abortion bans after the Dobbs decision. Those pregnancies came out of what the letter's authors found to be an estimated 519,981 "completed rapes." The pregnancies were during the four to 18 months in which the bans had taken effect. 

Dickman, the lead author on the study, is the chief medical officer of Planned Parenthood of Montana. He's also helping participate in legal challenges to his state's abortion restrictions.

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To arrive at that estimate of rape-caused pregnancies, the researchers said they first estimated how many rapes happened in states that had enacted abortion bans, during the abortion bans when they were in place. 

Dickman said he and his colleagues "used the best available research and data" they could find, and said that helped them "come up with the fraction of women of reproductive age who are survivors of ... completed vaginal rape," he wrote. 

He said, "We used CDC data — the most accurate available national data on rapes — but such highly stigmatized experiences are difficult to measure accurately in surveys."

The authors said that the number of estimated rape-related pregnancies is "large" compared to the "10 or fewer legal abortions per month occurring in each of those states."

The letter said the data "indicates that persons who have been raped and become pregnant cannot access legal abortions in their home state, even in states with rape exceptions."

Voters have been deciding on abortion access across the countryafter the Dobbs decision. There have been at least 272 anti-abortion rights provisions at the local level since the start of the year.