SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah’s abortion rate has dropped to the lowest level ever recorded, and there are differing opinions as to why.
The rate fell to 4.6 abortions per 1,000 women in 2013, down from a high of 11.1 in 1980 and 7.2 in 1975, when the state began keeping statistics, according to the Utah Department of Health.
Utah’s abortion rate hovered around 6 from 1997 to 2008 before dropping to 5 in 2011.
The 2,893 Utah women who had abortions in 2013 also is the lowest total since 1977, though the population of women has doubled since then.
Carol Tobias, president of National Right to Life, attributes the decrease to restrictive abortion laws including one in Utah requiring a 72-hour abortion waiting period.
“The legislative efforts of the right-to-life movement, and significantly, the resulting national debate and educational campaigns surrounding pro-life legislation should not be minimized when discussing the decline in abortion numbers,” she told The Salt Lake Tribune.
But Karrie Galloway, director of Planned Parenthood of Utah, questioned the claim. She cited the increased use of contraception by women and greater family planning as major factors for the decrease.
“I don’t think they can draw those conclusions any better than I can say (there are fewer abortions because) people have been able to access family planning and have good methods to prevent unintended pregnancy. We are guessing people’s hearts and minds,” she said.
Laurie Baksh of the state health department’s Maternal and Infant Health Program said she has no way of knowing what, if any, impact new laws have had on abortion.
She thinks the most recent recession caused many women to think about the economic realities of raising a child. “They are probably working a little bit harder not to become pregnant because now is not the time,” Baksh told The Tribune.
Big differences in abortion rates exist in Utah. They range from 100 abortions for every 1,000 babies born in Salt Lake County and 143.5 in Summit County to 22.9 in Utah County.
The latter is one of the most Mormon counties while the other two are among the least Mormon in the state, according to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
The church opposes abortion except in cases of incest, rape or jeopardy to a mother’s life.
Utah’s rate of abortions has always been well below the national level.