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A boy holds a sign at the Texas Capitol on July 8, 2013, the same day speakers at an evening rally said Texas has 80,000 abortions a year (Associated Press, Eric Gay). A boy holds a sign at the Texas Capitol on July 8, 2013, the same day speakers at an evening rally said Texas has 80,000 abortions a year (Associated Press, Eric Gay).

A boy holds a sign at the Texas Capitol on July 8, 2013, the same day speakers at an evening rally said Texas has 80,000 abortions a year (Associated Press, Eric Gay).

By Sue Owen July 10, 2013

Jonathan Stickland says Texas has more than 80,000 abortions each year

CLARIFICATION, 11 a.m., July 11, 2013: We amended this story to clarify that the law requiring a sonogram and a 24-hour wait before an abortion was phased in starting Sept. 1, 2011, an indication that it would not have deterred abortions the whole year.


As the Texas House renewed debate on proposed changes in abortion law July 9, 2013, state Rep. Jonathan Stickland said on Twitter, "Today is about the 80,000+ children" whose "life is stolen" per year in Texas.

That’s a widely used number -- one we even reaffirmed as recently as a June 2013 tweet. But it’s also out of date and too high, according to the latest count finalized by a Texas state agency.

The same 80,000 count was cited during the July 8, 2013, anti-abortion rally at the Texas Capitol, both by state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, and in a written statement from U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, that was read aloud. A July 1, 2013, Associated Press guide to the abortion-law fight used the figure as well.

In February 2011, when state Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, aired the 80,000 figure, we rated his statement as True based on information from Texas’ Department of State Health Services and the New York-based Guttmacher Institute.

The number of Texas abortions reported in 2008 -- the year with the most recent data available at that time -- was 81,591, according to the state agency. The 2008 Texas tally was 84,610, according to Guttmacher, a research group focusing on reproductive health issues.

Luke Macias, a Stickland consultant, told us by email that the Bedford Republican made his claim based on our 2011 article. Macias said, too, that Stickland depended on Guttmacher’s figure for Texas abortions in 2008 when he and fellow Tarrant County lawmakers sent 84,610 pieces of blue and pink paper to state Sen. Wendy Davis, D-Fort Worth, on June 25, 2013, the day she famously filibustered to stall abortion legislation.

The proposed restrictions were reintroduced in a second special session of 2013, which began the first week of July. The legislation would prohibit most abortions after 20 weeks of gestation, require any doctor performing abortions to have admission privileges at a nearby hospital and mandate that abortion clinics be certified as ambulatory surgical centers.

But the number of abortions has decreased since Patrick’s statement, as we wrote in a Feb. 12, 2013, fact-check that drew on newer state information. Austin Democratic state Rep. Donna Howard claimed generally that abortions were decreasing, which was True, we found, on both the state and federal levels.

The Texas tally had dropped for several consecutive years, while nationally the total hovered around 1.2 million from 2005 through 2008, by one analysis, and the number and rate decreased in 2009, according to information analyzed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Our story included a chart, emailed to us by agency spokeswoman Carrie Williams, showing reported abortions in Texas rose from 76,121 in 2000 to a peak of 82,056 in 2006, then declined again to a preliminary 2011 total of 72,470.

The Texas total was greater than 80,000 in 2006, ‘07 and ‘08, but below 80,000 in the other nine years on the chart. The average from 2007 through 2011 was 78,116.

On July 9, 2013, State Health Services spokeswoman Christine Mann told us by phone and email that the chart’s figures were still correct, and that the 2011 figure of 72,470 released in August 2012 had been finalized Feb. 26, 2013. She said a 2012 count was not yet compiled.

Guttmacher spokeswoman Rebecca Wind told us by phone July 9, 2013, that their count of 84,610 Texas abortions in 2008, drawn from survey research, was still the most recent available from the institute.

Mann told us the state figures came from mandatory reports that providers file each year with her agency; Wind told us Guttmacher sends a survey every four years or so to "all known abortion providers."


Abortions reported in Texas







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Source: State Health Services Department

So, Texas had about 72,500 abortions in 2011 -- down from about 82,000 in 2006, according to the state, whose figures also indicate there have not been more than 80,000 abortions since 2008.

Neither the Texas agency or Guttmacher had guidance for us on why the number of Texas abortions has declined.

A July 10, 2013, Austin American-Statesman news story cited Theodore Joyce, a professor at Baruch College in New York, as saying that after a 2003 change in Texas law, abortions at or beyond 16 weeks of pregnancy dropped by 88 percent.

Joyce studied effects of the law, which required that such abortions be performed at ambulatory surgical centers rather than abortion clinics. In 2004, no abortion clinics in Texas qualified as ambulatory surgical centers, Joyce said, but by 2006 Austin, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio had such centers.

Changes made in 2011 to Texas law could also have decreased the number of abortions, according to a study from the University of Texas, the University of Alabama and Ibis Reproductive Health (a nonprofit group that advocates for access to abortions). The researchers concluded that new mandates for a sonogram followed by a 24-hour wait before abortions, requiring two clinic visits, caused fewer Texas women to seek abortions. That law was phased in starting Sept. 1, 2011.

Regarding the latest state figures indicating about 72,000 abortions in the state in 2011, Macias said that with abortion totals ranging between "72,000-84,000 over the last decade," Stickland believes "both of those numbers and anywhere in between are too high."

Our ruling

Stickland said there are "80,000+" abortions each year in Texas.

That was last true in 2006, 2007 and 2008, according to the state, but the number has declined since, with 72,470 Texas abortions reported in 2011. Still, Guttmacher, a respected source, hasn’t updated its data since its survey reporting 84,610 Texas abortions in 2008, arguably giving Stickland’s claim an element of truth.

We rate this statement as Mostly False.

Our Sources

Email interview, excerpted, with Luke Macias, consultant, state Rep. Jonathan Stickland, July 9, 2013

Telephone and email interviews, excerpted, with Rebecca Wind, senior communications associate, Guttmacher Institute, New York, July 9-10, 2013

Email interviews, excerpted, with Christine Mann, assistant press officer, Texas Department of State Health Services, July 9-10, 2013

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More by Sue Owen

Jonathan Stickland says Texas has more than 80,000 abortions each year

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