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Utah's abortion rate among lowest in the US

Dr. Susan Gorman displays the Skyla IUD, left, and the Mirena IUD, at High Lakes Women’s Center in Redmond, Ore., on Jan. 14, 2015. Utah not only has one of the lowest abortion rates nationally, it provides some of the least state support for family planning activities, according to government and nonprofit agencies.

Dr. Susan Gorman displays the Skyla IUD, left, and the Mirena IUD, at High Lakes Women’s Center in Redmond, Ore., on Jan. 14, 2015. Utah not only has one of the lowest abortion rates nationally, it provides some of the least state support for family planning activities, according to government and nonprofit agencies. (Andy Tullis, The Bulletin via AP)



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah has one of the lowest abortion rates nationally and it has also experienced reductions in teen births and unintended pregnancies even as the state's population has grown.

According to 2021 data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Utah's abortion rate in 2019 was 4.2. The rate refers to the number of reported legal abortions per 1,000 women ages 15 to 44.

Utah's rate was well below that of neighboring Colorado at 7.6, 14.0 in Nevada, and 9.9 in New Mexico. Idaho had a similar rate at 4.4. Both West Virginia and Wyoming were lower, at 3.8 and 0.3, respectively, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation analysis of the data.

Abortion rates in the Beehive State plummeted 64% between 1980 and 2019, while the state's population of women ages 15 to 44 climbed by 105% during the same time period.

What has lowered abortions in Utah?

In recent years, there has also been a decline in teen births and unintended pregnancies in Utah.

At the same time, use of highly effective reversible contraception, such as intrauterine devices and implants, has increased, which also plays a role. National surveys indicate a delay in first intercourse and an increase in use of contraception at first intercourse.

Family planning in Utah is primarily supported by the federal government, although in recent years Planned Parenthood operated with no federal Title X funding, which supports clinics that provide family planning services to low-income people.

Utah's Planned Parenthood exited the program in 2019 because of a "gag rule" implemented during the Trump administration that prohibited recipients from referring patients for abortion except in cases of rape, incest or medical emergency.

Utah is back in the program, planning to "double down" on family planning efforts, Karrie Galloway, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, said in a previous interview.

All eyes are on state houses and courtrooms since the Supreme Court ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade and returned the issue to the states.

On Monday, a 3rd District Court judge granted a temporary restraining order preventing Utah's so-called trigger law from taking effect.

The law, passed in 2020, anticipated the overturn of Roe. It allows abortions only if the mother's life is at risk, if the pregnancy was a result of rape or incest, or if two physicians who practice "maternal fetal medicine" both determine that the fetus "has a defect that is uniformly diagnosable and uniformly lethal or ... has a severe brain abnormality that is uniformly diagnosable."

State judges in Louisiana and Texas have likewise placed state abortion laws on hold in their respective states pending further legal proceedings.

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