Utah's abortion rate hits historic low, state report finds

Utah’s abortion rate fell to an historic low in 2016, continuing a downward trend that reflects a national decline, according to a new state report Tuesday.

The rate of 4.2 abortions performed for every 1,000 women ages 15 to 44 is the lowest since Utah began keeping records in 1975, said Richard Oborn of the Utah Department of Health.

The news was cheered by groups on both sides of the abortion debate.

Karrie Galloway, CEO of Planned Parenthood of Utah, cited its work helping families get access to contraceptive methods such as intrauterine devices. While conservative Utah does impose restrictions on abortion, including a 72-hour waiting period, she doesn’t see that a primary contributor to the decline.

Meanwhile, Pro-Life Utah president Mary Taylor pointed to a nationwide drop in adolescent sex and pregnancies, among other factors. She supports abortion laws passed in the last few years, but said that information that comes along with the measures likely has a bigger effect on the overall rate.

Utah’s abortion rate has been on the decline for the last several years. The new data reversed a small uptick from the year before and brought the rate below the previous low of 4.3 abortions per 1,000 women in 2014.

Nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported the abortion rate at its lowest level in decades. There were 12.1 abortions per 1,000 women in 2014, according to the CDC.

Additional findings from Utah’s report:

• Of the 2,808 abortions performed in 2016, nearly 89 percent were classified as therapeutic.

• About 65 percent of women were in their 20s, and the rate was highest among women in that age group.

• Nearly seven in 10 abortions were performed within the first eight weeks of gestation. Less than 1 percent were performed after 21 weeks. Many anti-abortion activists want a federal abortion ban to be imposed after 20 weeks.