Fewer abortions were performed in Utah in 2020 than in 2019, according to a new study released Wednesday from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The report tallied abortions from across the U.S. during the year that the COVID-19 pandemic began. Data is not yet available from 2021, or so far this year. But the CDC report shows that of the 630,327 abortions performed nationally, 2,362 were recorded in Utah — 560 fewer than in 2019.
However, figures provided to The Salt Lake Tribune in May from the state’s two main abortion providers — planned Parenthood and Wasatch Women’s Center — tallied about 3,037 abortions. That tally also likely was incomplete, as private physicians also perform the procedure.
The reason for the discrepancy between the CDC report and local providers remains unclear, but reporting “is not complete in all areas” due to differing methodologies, the CDC report states. The CDC also gathers tallies from central state health agencies, not directly from providers.
The new report documented a 1.5% decrease in abortions nationwide in 2020, compared to a 19% decrease in Utah, when compared with 2019 figures from the Utah Department of Health and Human Services.
The apparent drop in procedures in 2020 may have been because of the pandemic. The CDC report states that abortion is sometimes defined as a “nonessential service,” so the procedure may not have been performed in certain areas during some stretches of 2020.
Changes in practice — including a documented shift from surgical to medical abortions, along with an uptick in telehealth appointments — may have also contributed to the decrease, as well as reduced sexual activity during the pandemic.
Who got an abortion in Utah in 2020?
Most abortions in Utah were obtained by unmarried white women between the ages of 20-24, who had not previously had an abortion or experienced a live birth, the report states. A “live birth” is defined as giving birth to a baby who shows definitive signs of life.
The report states there were 52 abortions in Utah for every 1,000 live births.
About 5% of Utah’s abortions were obtained by out of state residents, amounting to 118 in total. And about 12% of all abortions in Utah were obtained by individuals 19 or younger.
Nearly half of those abortions were obtained by 19-year-olds, and 30% were obtained by 18-year-olds. About 27 abortions were obtained by 17-year-olds, 16 were obtained by 16 year-olds, 13 were obtained by 15-year-olds, and six were obtained by individuals younger than 15.
About 32% of those who obtained abortions were between the ages of 20-24, followed by about 25% between the ages of 25-29 and 17% between the ages of 30-34.
And about 10% of Utahns who obtained an abortion were between 35-39 years old, while about 4% were either 40 or older.
Over 56% of those who obtained abortions in Utah were white, according to the report, followed by Hispanic individuals at 31% and Black individuals at 4.5%. Individuals of other races made up about 8% of abortions in Utah.
The report also states 79% of those who obtained an abortion in Utah were unmarried, amounting to 1,840 in total.
About 48% also did not have any previous live births, and 14% had three or more previous live births.
The vast majority of those who obtained an abortion in 2020 had not previously had one, with about 26% of individuals having had 1 or more abortions previously. Only about 5% had previously had two or more induced abortions.
What kind of abortions were obtained in Utah in 2020?
The majority of abortions performed in Utah were obtained at less than 9 weeks — with about 36% performed at fewer than 6 weeks and 37% performed between 7-9 weeks.
Utah calculates gestational age from the date of the last normal menstrual period, according to the report.
About 18% of abortions were performed between 10-13 weeks of pregnancy, followed by about 4% between weeks 14-15 and 2% between weeks 16-17.
About 3% of abortions were performed at 18 weeks or more.
Most abortions performed in Utah were surgical, and performed at 13 weeks or less, amounting to 53% of those performed, according to the CDC report.
Medical abortions, which involve taking medications to induce an abortion at 9 weeks or less, were the next most common procedure at about 37%.
About 9% of abortions were surgical and performed at more than 13 weeks, followed by about 1% being medical abortions performed at more than 9 weeks.